An Exploration of Jamaican American Identity

NEW YORK—”Transience,” a show of new works by emerging Jamaican American artist Paul Anthony Smith, looks like an exhibition of work created by two artists. While the works on view—boldly hued paintings of airport workers and photographs meticulously hand-embellished using a scratching technique to create fields of textural patterns—have diametrically opposed aesthetics, their unifying theme is fundamental to the artist’s experience. All of the works “speak to a search for identity that is at once autobiographical and universal,” and are inspired by Smith’s Jamaican ancestry.

Born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, Smith lives and works in Kansas City, Mo. “Transience,” his first solo exhibition, is on view at Zieher Smith from March 7 to April 20, 2013.

All photos © Arts Observer

From left, “Night Walkers,” 2013 (unique picotage on pigment print) and “Tarmac #4,” 2013 (oil and spray paint on canvas).

Smith depicts “Jamaican airport workers as they work, converse, and mill about the tarmac,” according to the gallery. “On his most recent trip, the artist was struck by these almost invisible first ambassadors of sorts, one of many crucial aspects to his native country’s biggest industry.”

From left, “Tarmac #2,” 2013 and “Tarmac #1,” 2011 (both oil on canvas).

Detail of “Ras,” 2013 (unique picotage on pigment print).

Installation view.

Detail of “Funeral #2,” 2012 (unique picotage on pigment print).

According to the gallery, “Smith uses a ceramic tool to laboriously pick away at the surface material of photographic prints, a unique technique loosely derived from an 18th century French process typically used with textiles. Though the process is purely ablative, the resultant texture creates a shimmering surface, as if flecked with glitter.”

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