Pioneers: Nick Smith

22 October - 28 November 2020

Rhodes Contemporary Art is proud to present Pioneers, a solo exhibition by Nick Smith that examines the American canon of art and cultural heritage through a personal lens of word-colour associations.


The exhibition features a new series of works Nick Smith created during lockdown, from his small village of Crinan. Thematically, the exhibition explores and remasters canonised North American art and culture, from Grant Wood, Edward Hopper and Chuck Close to The Simpsons. It is a celebration of iconic American art and design, and how a simple bottle of Coca-Cola has intertwined with art, design history and culture.


In this series, Smith incorporates his method of word-colour associations he has coined “psycolourgy”, combining text and image to create intriguing and provocative collaged works. On the surface, we see colour-chips that playfully pixelate iconic artwork and popular culture, but if we step closer, the image is abstracted and the words become readable. Each pixel corresponds to a word, creating either complimentary or subversive meanings. Word associations like “bastion” “waterproof” and “decompose” can be found in Yellow Raincoat, a remastering of Chuck Close’s Self-Portrait (Yellow Raincoat). This form of expression gives the viewer an insight into how the artist was feeling at the time, while the world was changing rapidly from the optimistic start of 2020. The process allowed Smith to capture this unique time in history.


North America has great resonance with Smith. His deep-rooted fascination began in early childhood. He coveted the exotic and glamorous American fashion labels his friends brandished after returning from the States. Notably, with an increasing demand for his works in the States, Smith’s American market continues to grow. After the success of his Purgatory show at Context Art Miami last December, Smith is set to have his first solo show in New York in 2021, which was cancelled this year when the border closed.


Nick Smith’s P-series (Psycolourgy 2015. Paramour 2016, Parlance 2017, Priceless 2018, Pinched 2019, Purgatory 2019) explores intricately researched concepts, which are always the crucial starting point for each new series of work. Smith has investigated themes of art theft, morality, the cult of celebrity, and erotic literature. Producing large-scale works to micro-chip collages, and print editions, Smith continues to push the boundaries of collage with new subjects and experimentation, forging a unique visual aesthetic.


Take a virtual tour of the show via the video below: