Paul Anthony Smith
10/5/2019 - 1/19/2020

Karen and Doug Riley Contemporary Artists Project (CAP) Gallery exhibitions are supported by Douglas County, Catherine & Terry Ferguson, Sara Foxley, and Polina & Bob Schlott.

Drawing on the art historical traditions of Pointilism and Geometric Abstraction, Paul Anthony Smith creates “picotages,” named for a pattern printing technique that entails pressing textured blocks onto fabric. Trained in ceramics, Smith uses sharp, wooden tools to stipple the surfaces of photographs he has taken that examine the African and Caribbean diasporas. Having emigrated to the United States from his native Jamaica, Smith has long been curious about the pursuit of identity and self-determination that can accompany migration. In exploring this topic, Smith seeks guidance in the writings of Caribbean philosopher Frantz Fanon, who studied the cultural confusions that stem from colonialism, as well as in American scholar and activist W.E.B. Du Bois’ theory of “double consciousness,” which suggests that social identity is multivalent and therefore difficult to define.

Smith’s work interrogates the concept of hybrid identity—often experienced acutely by those who have migrated across borders—while mining the intersections of place, memory, and dislocation. By incising his images, Smith references several cultural traditions, including African tribal masking and scarification, a practice in which the skin is cut, leaving indelible patterns on the body. Just as these customs alter appearances, Smith’s interventions complicate the surfaces of his photographs and, at times, even completely obscure portions of the images, calling into question their authority as representations of “the truth.” Smith further emphasizes the barrier between the viewer and the scenes unfolding in the photographs by employing visual motifs that recall walls and fences, potent symbols associated with immigration and international borders. Despite the narrative and physical tensions that play out across Smith’s work, the artist also maintains his belief in the power of community. Many of his images depict parades and other jovial gatherings of peers, a reminder of the Jamaican coat of arms, which reads: “Out of many, one people.”

What's pictured: Paul Anthony Smith (Jamaican, born 1988), So What, 2016, unique picotage on inkjet print and colored pencil, mounted on museum board and Sintra, 95 x 47 3/4 in., © Paul Anthony Smith. Image courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Exhibition-Related Events & Programs

Thursday, October 10 @ 6:30 pm (cash bar opens at 5:30 pm)

The Karen and Doug Riley Contemporary Artists Project Gallery

A 500-square-foot space in the Scott Pavilion suite of galleries, the Riley CAP Gallery showcases nationally- and internationally-recognized artists, as well as emerging talent, selected by Joslyn curators. A rotating schedule of intimate, carefully focused exhibitions will examine how artists engage with the world and respond to the issues that challenge them creatively, bringing new perspectives on contemporary art to Nebraska.

Riley CAP Gallery artists will be invited to Joslyn for lectures and other public programs, giving audiences the opportunity to gain insight into creative processes and contribute to an expanded dialogue about new art. The first Joslyn gallery dedicated exclusively to living artists, the Riley CAP Gallery represents an important step in making contemporary art an even more integral component of the Museum’s exhibition programming.