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Guy Richards Smit


Paintings from Mountain of Skulls series, New York Times series

Images courtesy of the gallery and artist


Guy Richards Smit creates stage characters that scathingly parody the very art world in which he is a very successful player. Smit came to fine art from a background in illustration, and now produces installations, musicals, standup comedy performances, and even a full-blown sitcom starring the artist as his drunken narcissistic egomaniac alter ego Jonathan Grossmalerman. That invented surname is pig-German for “big painter guy”—Grossmalerman prefers to reduce successful artists to visual shtick—and Smit does indeed make big paintings.


On November 9, Richards Smit’s latest series of monumental (nine by twelve feet) acrylic paintings on canvas tarp, titled Guilty of Everything, goes on view at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center. It’s a return visit for the artist, who last appeared at the gallery fifteen years ago in a group exhibition titled B-LIST: Brooklyn, Angst, and Desire. There will be an artist talk around 8 p.m., which, given Richards Smit’s madcap onstage personas, might be one not to miss.


Curator John Massier aptly sums up the works in the upcoming Hallwalls exhibition as “ambiguous vignettes laced with dark humor and unsettling emotional currents, rendered with a lush, painterly hand. The visual beauty of Smit’s work complicates its darker and desultory themes.” With this series’ title, the artist seems to be metaphorically throwing up his arms in resignation and confessing to all the world’s woes. Why waste energy defending yourself when it’s so much easier to accept blanket-blame? The Guilty paintings are nuanced observational life fragments, pictured without context, yet disturbingly familiar and unaccountably humorous.



Consultation, for instance, depicts a doctor—reminiscent of the artist—happily pointing at a prescription bottle, as a female patient looks on. Its colorful and faintly illustrative, contrasting with the grim backdrop of the opioid crises, against which it must be viewed. Works from other related series that might find their way into the exhibition mix, include washy renditions of New York Times front pages with sinisterly humorous headlines, and droll momento mori skulls on paper, with captions that remind us that we all share the same fate. All the work has a confident dashed-off appearance that draws from a variety of pop sources, including music, comic books, news media, movies, and gaming culture.


Richards Smit’s work has been exhibited widely nationally and internationally, including at the Pompidou Center, Paris; Museum of Modern Art, New York City; biennials in Havana and Valencia; ARCOMadrid; the Dublin Contemporary, Ireland; and in solo exhibitions in the US and UK. 


Guilty of Everything opens at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 341 Delaware Avenue, November 9, with a free reception 8–11 p.m., and runs through December 21. Visit Hallwalls.org for more information.


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