The work of artist Josh Smith is distinguished by his mastery of multiple mediums (including painting, collage, sculpture, book and printmaking, and ceramics), and his tendency is to acknowledge trends in painting and sculpture by expressly upending them. His most iconic works are paintings that boldly feature his name as their subject; in recent years, the name has given way to motifs such as leaves, fish, skeletons, insects, ghosts, and sunsets.
In selecting these rather arbitrary subjects and rendering them in a manner that is by turns aggressive, playful, and repetitive, Smith’s objective is to move our focus beyond aesthetics and towards process and looking.
Last year, Josh was asked to create a set of paintings for Paul’s Cocktail Lounge at the Tribeca Grand, and his work graces the space to this day. We reached out to him to talk about his art and the collaboration with Paul’s, and to our surprise, received a fully transcribed question and answer piece – in which Josh asked all of the right questions:
GrandLife: What’s up with the paintings you did for Paul’s Cocktail Lounge?
Josh Smith: That was a collaboration with Paul Sevigny, GrandLife’s design director Briana Stanley, and the GrandLife team. They were designing the look and feel of this tiny, new spot at Tribeca Grand, and I was happy to contribute. I did small oil paintings of palm trees and sent over a bunch of little ones. They picked the ones they liked, and framed them in these simple frames constructed from white wood molding. I like doing collaborations, if it is the right time. Sometimes I do projects I shouldn’t have done, but this one felt good.
GL: Why palm trees?
JS: In summer 2013, I was working on a show for Luhring Augustine Gallery in New York, and in one of their spaces I was making a show of palm tree paintings, with sunset-type backgrounds. I had the colors all mixed up, and I had a feeling that that type of painting would mix well with whatever other design choices they would ultimately make. In my opinion, they ended up looking sweet in there.
GL: Have you heard other people’s reaction?
JS: A few people have come up and told me how much they liked them. I generally don’t care how things look, but in this particular case I am kind of proud. Personally, I don’t excel socially in loud, crowded places. It’s nice that my paintings can hang out there quietly and contribute to others having a great time with their friends.
GL: What are you working on now?
JS: Just treading water, trying to have a good life. I have a new studio in New York, and that is going to get fixed up. I work everyday. My painting ideas are being sorted and filtered in my brain right this moment. There are some good ones.