David Smyth

Allan Frumkin Gallery

David Smyth’s paintings at the Allan Frumkin Gallery took as their point of departure structures such as girders, walls, smokestacks, elevator machinery, glimpses of pipes, tubes, tanks of factories—material which is familiar and almost commonplace. Such material itself contributed little and it was Smyth’s achievement to make it visually significant, which he succeeded in doing often if not always. His drawing of these forms is simplified (the precise black outline for each form seems to be well suited to his needs); color is limited and cast shadow is used with discretion (the color of the form changes, in flat unvarying shades, as the direction changes). These qualities all add up to handsome patterns and his feeling for pattern is rarely flawed.

Smyth is concerned, however, with contrasts of logic and the illogical as contained in perspective and its play both on and behind the surface. Space and form are indeterminate, also impenetrable and here is where his color—usually a red, grey, and a cream—fails to express as effectively as it could, the structural idea. The untitled painting in two parts shows the fine organizing power. The paintings recall those bits of architecture which serve as a stage or a foil for the main theme in many late Gothic works, especially Giotto or Lorenzetti. What was minor and secondary, a bit of stage scenery there, is central in Smyth’s work.

Whitney Halstead