When it comes time to reflect on who we are, and how we will be remembered, what will be said? Guy Richard Smit’s A Mountain of Skulls and Not One I Recognize at Charlie James Gallery, is a work of dark comedy. The skull paintings, a pyramid-shaped installation, emulates a burial mound or mass grave. The paintings read like a psychological cross-section of a lost village that may have met a violent end. Smit’s juxtaposition of image and text projects personalities onto the human remains. The paintings, individualized memento mori, encourage the viewer to meditate upon the fragility of life, inevitability of death and the question, “what remains?”
Smit, unrelenting in his humor, critiques the deceased through revealing text that speaks to the shortcomings of humanity, laying bare our narcissism, failure, resignation and vanity, barely hidden under the skin in life and exposed to the world when the flesh is stripped away from the bone. Death is a democratizing force, leaving us all naked, vulnerable and exposed to the elements.
Managing Expectations is an expressionistic, painterly reverberation of colors, a washed pink and brown skull that hovers over a nebulous, purple stage set against a bleak, yellowish sky. The skull fades into the background like quiet failure and deferred dreams.
In Marshalling Social Theory in Defense of Personal Impulse the teleological positioning of text over the mouth seems to finally silence a blowhard. The title seems to indicate a person using a crackpot belief system such as social Darwinism to co-sign his racism or fundamentalist religion to justify misogyny. Only death could silence the man and expose this fraud.
Merely Clever’s mouth gapes widely as if in its last gasps. It seems to rest in a pool of water, which appears to run through it. Disjointed eye-sockets protrude as it sits tilted on its side. Dabs of brown outline the teeth, as detailed lines inside the mouth create depth in the anarchic shape of this skull. Perhaps the limited quality of being “merely” clever proved insufficient.
Sociopath sinks into a black sea of muck, probably of its own creation. The drowning skull may be an illustration of its ‘just desserts.’ This could be just wishful thinking and the false hope that karma prevails in the end.
Picky Eater, long and thin, appears as an emaciated orthorexic. The skull painted in Pepto Bismol pink reflects upon the de rigeur obsession with the gut.
This exhibition is complemented by the pop cultural relics of Smit’s newspaper paintings, reimagining our time through twisted satire. His front page series consists of a group of paintings, satirizing the New York Times, as well as a fully functional oversized newspaper entitled New York Times, Friday Sept 13th, 2013. It is complete with all the sections. The newspaper features cartoonish pictures with headlines such as “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore!” or “Lone Drone Adrift: Guided Only by its Wits, No Plans.” These subversive headlines capture truth: “Your Insidious Child! Keep Him Away!” The newspaper paintings also examine imagined existential and sociological crises such as “Romney Turns to Poetry and Scrapbooking.”
The back room belongs to Smit’s alter ego, Johnathan Grossmalerman, displaying comic books and screening episodes of The Grossmalerman! Show.
MC Stevens interviews Guy Richards Smit
Interview: Guy Richards Smit
Hunter Grayson reviews The Grossmalerman! Show
Review: The Grossmalerman! Show
A Mountain of Skulls and Not One I Recognize
Closes April 9
Charlie James Gallery
969 Chung King Road
Los Angeles, CA 90012