Houston

Lee Smith

Texas Gallery

There’s just a thin scrim between Lee Smith’s paintings of childhood games and that edge of our adult lives which is haunted by unoccasioned fears and inexplicable awe. His medium-sized works, scaled to fit any tract house, deal almost straightforwardly with the covert activities of adolescents. They have a children’s book clarity, an illustrational purpose: all forms are simplified and rendered in strong colors with clear contours. But a bizarre surreality suffuses the images—the children glow around their edges like irradiated lunar-kinder, and their flesh-tones are red, blue, or green. We think that they’re only involved in playful pastimes, but we’re unsure.

In Blocks and Sticks, 1987, and Blocks, Sticks and Triangle, 1988, four boys on a vast plain are leveraging huge blocks for a feat one of them describes by forming a triangle with his hands. Are they stacking baled hay, planning a

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