los-angeles

Alexis Smith, Golden Glow (detail), 1995, three mixed-media collages (each 29 x 24"), pair of leather boots, overall dimensions variable.

Alexis Smith

Honor Fraser

Alexis Smith, Golden Glow (detail), 1995, three mixed-media collages (each 29 x 24"), pair of leather boots, overall dimensions variable.

Art history has had a difficult time knowing what to do with the work of Alexis Smith. Her thingly object collages have long been awkwardly characterized as belonging to a strain of witty, narrative Conceptualism associated with the work of fellow LA artists Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, and Allen Ruppersberg. Ruppersberg may be the most apt comparison, but if his works tend to employ a novelistic structure, Smith’s have the allusive impact of short-form poetry. On the other hand, Smith’s deep commitment to collage and assemblage—not to mention the esoteric mood of her works as well as their use of Americana—begs comparison to figures such as Joseph Cornell, H. C. Westermann, and George Brecht. But unlike the work of those artists, Smith’s collages attain effects ranging from corny and ironic to deeply critical, even harrowing. They manage to be simultaneously imbued with

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