Lucien Smith Cosmas and Damian
Cosmas and Damian, Smith’s third solo-show at the gallery, presents a series of paintings based on the idea of binary relationships and symbolic context. As is true with much of Smith’s work, his references for this show are broad, spanning from his personal nostalgia, to modern iconography, to art history. Subsequently, these new paintings visualize the confluence of his thought process, compressing multiple ideas to consider the whole.
Smith centrally positioned one five-pointed star on twin canvases, differentiated from one another solely by shifts of foreground/background coloration. Choosing specific colors, he considered not only individual hues, but also the effect of interrelation. Through symmetry and these various chromatic combinations, he illustrates the subjectivity of color, and the perception of iconography. Symbolically, stars can represent the cosmos, myth, celebrity, propaganda, or political ideologies. Because of these varied meanings, Smith’s paintings open interpretation, as perception is ambiguous without context.
As we begin principally with the material, color itself, and its action and interaction as registered in our minds, we practice first and mainly a study of ourselves. Thus, we replace looking backward by looking first at ourselves and our surroundings, and replace retrospection with introspection. – Josef Albers, Interaction of Color (1963)
Alongside the star diptychs, Smith includes three small-scale black and white oil paintings. These works are based on photographic documentation of Beuys’ well-known performance of 1974, I Like America and America Likes Me. The artist arrived at a Manhattan venue, via ambulance, where he spent three days isolated in a room with a wild coyote. On his way back to the airport after the performance, he passed the “Twin Towers,” referring to them as Cosmas and Damian.
All images: Cosmas and Damian, 2017. Photography courtesy of Morán Morán