• Victorian Excavation

    Date posted: August 11, 2010 Author: jolanta
    Early in his career, painter Aaron Smith spent his days feeding a studious obsession for art history and his weekend nights manning the door of a L.A. nightclub that hosted appearances by performance artist Ron Athey and others, who were famously photographed by Catherine Opie. Like many artists of his generation, Smith explores issues of identity, particularly the concept of the “other.” Rather than depicting himself or those around him, he repurposes images derived from art’s past. Smith often paints baroque and gothic sculptures as well as decorative objects preserved in museums around the world, focusing on the sensuality and the emotional ambiguity he sees.

    Alix Sloan

    Aaron Smith, Bearded, 2009. Oil on panel, 25 x 23 inches. Courtesy of Koplin Del Rio Gallery, Los Angeles.

    Early in his career, painter Aaron Smith spent his days feeding a studious obsession for art history and his weekend nights manning the door of a L.A. nightclub that hosted appearances by performance artist Ron Athey and others, who were famously photographed by Catherine Opie. Like many artists of his generation, Smith explores issues of identity, particularly the concept of the “other.” Rather than depicting himself or those around him, he repurposes images derived from art’s past.

    Smith often paints baroque and gothic sculptures as well as decorative objects preserved in museums around the world, focusing on the sensuality and the emotional ambiguity he sees. Having been stripped of context and painted with turbulent brushwork and vibrant colors (often at an absurd scale) his figures seem exposed and fragile, caught in an existential void. In other works Smith’s male subjects give off a sexual heat that belies their origins. Each oil-on-panel work vibrates with an energy that threatens to overwhelm each figure’s structure while hinting at an inner transformation.

    An avid collector of early photography, the artist has recently produced a series of paintings inspired by his collection’s focus on Victorian/Edwardian dandyism and the Physical Culture movement. Each bearded character’s portrait has been titled with a nickname culled from Victorian street slang. Despite their historical origins, the new aesthetics of the paintings draw parallels to a playful relationship with the male persona expressed within various contemporary subcultures. Freak folk, Steampunk, Bear Culture, and Beard/Mustache Culture are a few demographics that celebrate and manipulate traditional masculine archetypes. Smith’s paintings seek to compress and heighten these relationships.

    http://aaronsmithart.com/

    http://mucksnipe.tumblr.com/

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