ineffable: joy

Transcending cynicism and irony – new paintings by Claude Smith


Claude Smith: Joy


Claude Smith, a native New Yorker, has been committed to the process of painting for nearly fifty years.  Art, and painting in particular, has been a means of examining life, and his place in the world.  On what Smith calls his “path of obscurity”, he has chosen to explore the boundaries of life and death, form and emptiness, and impermanence.  His primary influences are Taoist philosophy, the natural world, Zen calligraphy, jazz, and the music of 20th century composers like Toru Takemitsu, and John Cage.

Smith’s current body of work emerged out of his dialogues with musician and writer, Richard Osborn. Smith was questioning the function of painting in today’s world, positing that photography, film, video, and audio were far more potent mediums for story telling, and for making social and political statements … leaving painting to do, what?  That discussion led Smith to examine the concept of “Joy”, which seems to be well represented in the realms of music, dance, theater, literature, and film, but conspicuously absent in the history of painting.  “Why is that?  Is it too difficult to access and find a means to express “Joy”?  Is it socially unacceptable?  Not hip enough?  Not cynical or hard-edge enough for today’s culture?, Smith wondered.

Never bound by art-world trends, Smith set sail for what was personally unfamiliar territory, in search of unspeakable joy and a way to authentically communicate his experiences.  The resulting series of paintings are visceral, energetic and joyful expressions of color, rhythm and form.

Gallery MUJO, 548 South Spring St, Los Angeles, Ca.
February 4-29, 2012. Reception: February 18, 5-8 p.m.

Claude Smith’s website

miró, joy and claude smith

claude smith at the artisans’ gallery

miró, joy and claude smith


Claude Smith: Golden Joy series

Golden Joy Series

The following is extracted from email correspondence with Claude Smith and used with permission.  I like the way it follows on from my last post about Joan Miró.

I’ve been thinking about joy a lot this year … and particularly the joy of painting, and the function of painting in today’s world.

Painting has mostly been reduced to decoration or design.  Even when it’s sophisticated decoration or design it doesn’t take you very far.  In the history of art, particularly in Western art, where do we find examples of joyful painting?  Particularly in the last 50-100 years?  (I’m not talking about whimsical, or jokey painting … I mean full-on expressions of joy).  Which artists have managed to create what clearly reads as joyful painting?

My most profound experience of encountering paintings that exude joy came at the Pompidou Center in Paris about 20 years ago.  I stepped into the Miró Room and found myself spontaneously dancing and jumping for joy (really!), being surrounded by the buoyant spirit that came through his work.  This is the power of art!  And how rare!

When it comes to painting these days, there is a need to transcend the cynical and ironic, the sentimental and representational, and especially the commodification of art.

That’s where I’m headed.  To embody joy and somehow convey it through painting.

– Claude Smith

claude smith at the artisans’ gallery

ineffable: joy