Rebecca Smith: Tape and Steel, New York Studio School, New York, NY

Rebecca Smith, Heavy Orchid, 2009

June 3 – July 17, 2010

The second clause in the full name of the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture arguably signals both focus and open-endness in its teaching program. It defines the scope of instruction in terms of time-honored, some would argue elemental methods of plastic inquiry and engenders rigor through medium-specificity in a way that the well-intentioned catch-all “fine arts” has tended to break down. But by spelling out its trinity of activities, an organic unity of drawing, painting and sculpture is also implied.

Rebecca Smith is an artist whose constructions entail aspects of drawing, painting and sculpture without limiting themselves, ultimately, to the dictates of any one of these processes. Her work has physical presence, inviting the eye into literal depths of space, demanding adjustment of perspective from an active viewer. Smith plays upon a tactile sense of visceral surface, twisting shape, and the tensions of one form pressing against another. But her work is also planar, establishing pictorial space and exploiting the relationship of constructed forms with the wall or floor that serves as their support. Color and its textured application are integral to the formal unity of her work, never subservient to it.

Smith’s line is radically abstract. Without becoming schematic or semiotic, Smith’s line has the notational characteristic of drawing, despite its particularity of expression, its real presence, and its often sheer funkiness. It is exploratory, provisional, a stand-in for something bigger, something that can be further elaborated, whether by artist or viewer.

The insightful essay and penetrating interview published here indicate the depths of research and thought that underpin Rebecca Smith’s activity. The viewer is hungry for such information, because, for all their economy, these beguiling, hermetic works are demonstrably about something more than their self-contained formal syntax. A Rebecca Smith describes the world while insistently being a thing in it.

–David Cohen

Rebecca Smith was born April  4, 1954, in Glens Falls, N.Y., the daughter of the writer Jean Freas and the artist David Smith.   She grew up in Washington, D.C. and Bolton Landing, and attended Sarah Lawrence College and The New York Studio School. First exhibiting in 1977, she has been making art since the late 1970s, in various media including painting, performance, sculpture and tape drawing installations. Beginning with her first child, born in 1982, Smith has raised three children while maintaining a career as an artist.  She lives with the writer Michael Coffey in New York City and Bolton Landing, New York.