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Indepth Arts News:

"Cedric Smith: We"
2005-02-02 until 2005-03-05
DFN Gallery
New York, NY, USA United States of America

DFN Gallery is pleased to present “We,” an exhibition of mixed media works by Cedric Smith.  Smith is a self-taught artist, born in Philadelphia and raised in Georgia.  An early meeting with folk artist William Tolliver inspired Smith to dedicate his life to making art.  Influenced by Pop Art, brand advertising, and photography, Smith’s first solo exhibition in New York is infused with intense color and symbolism. 

An early breakthrough in Smith’s work came through listening to the lyrics of political rap group Public Enemy, criticizing the lack of acknowledgment of achievements by African-Americans.  Smith reacted by creating collages incorporating found photographs onto postage stamps and dollar bills, beginning a body of work that is committed to revisionism.  Most recently, Smith has been recreating advertisements and labels for popular products in an attempt to redress the absence of African American representatives in popular marketing and culture. 

Smith’s use of bright color contrasts with the vintage black and white photographs used for the faces of his portraits.  Through the combination of photographs, text, and layers of paint, Smith achieves a rich texture in his work both visually and psychologically. These poignant and sentimental images are also occasionally tinged with sarcasm.  In Jennifer, a girl and a dog are portrayed in a fantastic landscape of viridian and turquoise, with a burning orange sky.  The irony lies in the title of the painting: is Jennifer the girl or the dog?  Smith criticizes assumptions about the value of people and their images in his work.  These frontal portraits, usually children, can also be confrontational, as in Listen Up, in which a girl stands on a soap box, ready to tell her story.  The found black and white portrait photographs represent the past, and Smith paints a new reality in the present for these anonymous sitters. 

Smith signs all of his work on the back with the symbol of a church, which represents his grandmother who had a major influence on his life.  Smith’s grandmother is also present in his use of small fabric patches, referencing her lifelong love of quilt making.  Smith illustrates his desire to give his artwork as a gift to the viewer by incorporating two ribbons of colors converging in the center of the painting.  Bubbles in the painting refer to the “bubbles” in old films, reiterating the connection between old and new in his work.  The intense colors are intended to represent a brighter future for the figures in his paintings. Cedric Smith has exhibited in galleries throughout the Southeastern United States, as well as New York, New Jersey, California, and Chicago.  His work is in several public and private collections including The Mint Museum, The Tubman Museum, the Washington D.C. Arts Commission, and the Coca-Cola Company.


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