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Indepth Arts News:

"Strange Messenger: The Art of Patti Smith"
2002-09-28 until 2003-01-05
Andy Warhol Museum
Pittsburgh, PA, USA

On display on the Museum's sixth floor, Strange Messenger: The Art of Patti Smith will include more than 50 works on paper produced by Smith over the last 30 years, including a recent series of large-scale drawings inspired by the events of September 11, 2001. The exhibition will also feature original manuscripts of her writing, photographs, source material for her work, and rarely seen video and film, including the short film Still/Moving, an early collaboration between Smith and her friend, the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

"Like Andy Warhol, Patti Smith isn't an artist who is easily categorized. She moves fluidly through the genres of music, visual art, and language," says John Smith, exhibition curator and archivist at The Warhol. "Her work and her career defy the traditional boundaries of both the art and music worlds. To understand Smith's work is to understand the organic quality of what she does."

Patti Smith first gained critical attention in the early 1970s as a pioneering poet and performer who burst onto the downtown New York City scene which was centered around St. Mark's Church. After performing at the fledgling underground music club, CBGBs, Smith was the first of a new breed of musicians to be signed to a major record label. Her critically acclaimed 1975 debut album, Horses, featuring reworked classic rock covers, original songs and stream-of-conscious poetry, is considered one of the most influential rock albums of all time. Simultaneous to her musical notoriety, Patti Smith also expanded her visual art career. Her drawings, inspired by artists such as William Blake and Antonin Artaud, and rendered in fine lines and delicate color, represent a powerful fusion of image and text. Her latest series of large-scale drawings (the largest measuring 48 inches by 30 inches) are inspired by the damaged World Trade Center towers after the September 11 terrorist attack. Using text from the Gospel of Peace of the Essences, the Koran and other sources, Smith has reconstructed the building's remains in an intricate web of poetic language.

"I think the exhibition of Patti's visual art will be a real surprise for people who only know her music or her poetry," says John Smith. "The drawings are visually beautiful and compelling and they extend upon her intellectual, emotional and spiritual vision in new and different ways."

The Museum will also publish a soft-cover exhibition catalogue, Strange Messenger: The Art of Patti Smith, featuring essays and color reproductions of Patti Smith's work. The catalogue will be available in The Warhol Store during the run of the exhibition.

Photo: Patti Smith
Oliver Ray

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