Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art presents Searching, a solo exhibition of well-known picotage photographic works and recent painted landscapes by artist Paul Anthony Smith (Jamaican, born 1988). Together, these works engage concepts of access and vulnerability.
In part, this exhibition celebrates ten years of Smith’s picotage technique, a process whereby he uses sharp tools to stipple the surfaces of photographs in specific patterns and in select areas.
Photographed in Jamaica, where the artist was born, and New York City, where he lives and works, these images demonstrate Smith’s longstanding exploration of the concept of hybrid identity. The picotage process—the picking away at the image and individual and at the same time adding to it—explore the layers and meditations on the complexities and multifaceted spaces of social and cultural identity in the Caribbean.
In works from Smith’s recent Dreams Deferred and Centering the Periphery series, he employs a narrow depth of field where views of tropical beaches and park landscapes are obscured by the blurred geometric pattern of chain link fencing. Like masking the figures, the fence alludes to barriers that socially, culturally, and physically obscure the image, creating tension and calling into question notions of the image and its representations as “truth.”
When considered together, these series reveal Smith’s ongoing meditations on memories, retracing routes, centering, access, and vulnerability that connect to an overarching notion of searching.
Searching is organized by Kemper Museum of Contemporary and curated by Erin Dziedzic, director of curatorial affairs.