For more than 30 years, artist Ray Smith has created his signature blend of magical realism and modernism, often weaving the spiritual and political traditions of Mexican muralism with Western art references.
Here | Now, a retrospective of Smith’s work since he came into prominence in New York in the 1980s, will be the first exhibition in Mana Contemporary Chicago’s fifth floor gallery. The September 22 opening event will coincide with EXPO Chicago and Fountain Art Fair—which will take place on Mana Contemporary Chicago’s first floor—to introduce the thrilling cultural venture to Chicago’s vibrant arts scene.
The exhibition will include works from Smith’s private collection as well as works collected by his friend, anthropologist and art critic, Francesco Pellizzi. The show offers a cross-sectional look at the artist’s lifestyle, his work, and the spirit of collaboration within his practice. Among the key themes explored are: Ray Smith—a radical hybrid of Mexican-American culture; suggestive dichotomies—mystery within familiarity—subversive propagandism—Mexican muralism and modernist traditions.
In October 2012, Smith’s Gowanus studio was heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy floodwaters which drowned his huge figurative canvases and wooden sculptures in six feet of murky water. Mana Contemporary’s flagship location in Jersey City offered refuge to the internationally-recognized artist with studio space as well as restoration and safekeeping of his water-logged work.
Chicagoans may be particularly drawn to one of Smith’s sculptures, a plywood carving of a buffoonish Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, with the exaggerated nose of a liar. A highlight of the exhibition is one of Smith’s signature paintings, “Guernimex III (La Olympiada)” (1989-90), in which Smith appropriated imagery from Picasso’s “Guernica” and infused it with Mexican political references.