Jack Smith’s posthumous career

Jack Smith, Normal Love, 1963, still from a color film in 16 mm, 95 minutes.

AMONG THE MANY EVOCATIVE ELEMENTS to be found in “Thanks for Explaining Me,” the recent exhibition at Gladstone Gallery in New York devoted to the work of Jack Smith (1932–1989), was the unmistakable sound of the artist’s voice, at once somnolent and hysterical. Even before one had fully entered the show, Smith could be heard loudly complaining about art-world corruption.

Smith was famous long ago for his scandalous 1963 film Flaming Creatures, and like an insanely protective parent, he took steps to ensure that none of his subsequent work would ever leave the nest. Thus, as positioned by curator Neville Wakefield, Smith’s recorded screed—like the exhibition’s rubric (a Smith koan found scribbled on an index card)—served as both introduction and inoculation. The terminally underground, wildly uncommercial photographer, filmmaker, performance artist, and all-around difficult

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