Byron Smith, Untitled, 2017, Pencil on paper, 14 x 17 inches
February 22 - March 31, 2018
Institute 193, Lexington
Diana Ross looks coolly over her shoulder, a breeze moving gently through her hair. Staring outward from a field of dense black, Isabella Rossellini, gazes affably at some beautiful something in the middle distance. Cher and Tina Turner turn their attention straight out, beaming, standing shoulder to shoulder. These images, taken from magazines, album covers, and tabloids, are reconsidered in highly stylized drawings by Byron Smith, with the end result, rendered in simple line and flat blocks of color, alternately charming, graceful, and comedic.
Smith (b. 1963), originally from North Carolina, and now residing in Brooklyn, has worked with a number of subjects. Early drawings included objects from his surrounding environment, especially shoes and flowers, which quickly gave way to an interest in gorillas and robots, before moving to his current fixation on fashion-forward women. Smith is highly selective in regards to the images he works from. Often, the women he chooses to depict are unabashedly happy, smiling and looking directly at the viewer. He also gravitates towards images of female kinship and friendly affection; Thelma and Louise, Edina and Patsy from the TV series Absolutely Fabulous, pairs of synchronized swimmers, and groups of women dressed in beach attire have all been depicted tenderly and with a deep display of platonic intimacy.
The women are depicted elegantly. Fingernails and eyelashes are exaggerated. Lips are painted a vibrant red. Their silhouettes are drawn, erased, and redrawn with long, deliberate strokes. They are poised, graceful figures, instantly recognizable despite an economic use of line and shape.
A thread of sincerity runs through all of Smith’s work, a kind impulse that seems to drive his work, aid in the choice of his subjects, and inform the way that he reinterprets their image.