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Mark Smith: Phalanxes

October 1, 2020 - November 28, 2020

An oval with angular edges made up of many, multi-colored squares. Each shape has at least one inner square of a different color. There is a line down the center of the piece interrupted with a square that contains increasingly smaller squares and a circle filled with many other circles in the center.

Elizabeth Leach Gallery is pleased to present Phalanxes featuring graphic textile wall works by Mark. R. Smith from October 1 – November 28, 2020.

Mark R. Smith’s new intricately collaged paintings convey contemporary and historical narratives through an abstract visual language. Dome, diamond, circle and starburst shapes emerge from linear woven strips that were cut, mitered, and reconfigured into interlocking patterns that transmit an exquisite, symbiotic beauty.

Inspired by writings on utopian societies proposed by French philosopher Charles Fourier (1772-1837), Smith investigates symmetry and “the promise of ecstatic visual harmony.” The artist became particularly interested in Fourier’s plans for mirrored housing structures known as phalansteries, an idealized living space where members could pursue individual passions and share resources while enjoying gender and social equality. Smith builds imagery around these concepts in the new works, building on his signature striped vocabulary to create vividly colored geometries from textiles and recycled clothing.

A large scale series included in the exhibition incorporates zippers to split the image to allude to physical cohesion and division. Dynamic, vibrant lines are stacked and clustered, each side of the picture plane suggesting a mirror image while the artist’s subtle alterations keep the viewer’s eye continually activated while deciphering differences inside complementary shaped constructions. Smith’s latest body of works exemplifies his ongoing interest in communicating narratives through the redolent power of materiality.

Mark R. Smith’s work explores pattern and recycled textiles, creating unconventional objects based on a conceptual framework. Smith manifests his ideas through a labor-intensive process, transforming everyday materials into dynamic, thoughtful paintings. Smith received his BFA from The Cooper Union (New York, NY) and his MFA from Portland State University (Portland, OR). He has had solo exhibitions at the Office of the Governor (Salem, OR), Northview Gallery at Portland Community College (Portland, OR), Gallery Hlemmur (Reykjavik, Iceland) and The Art Gym at Marylhurst College (Marylhurst, OR). Smith was included in The Oregon Biennial three times and received the curator’s award in 1995 and 2001. He has also received many public commissions, including projects with Trimet, Providence Hospital and the Port of Portland (all Portland, OR). Smith’s work is included in a number of public and private collections, including the American Embassy (Accra, Ghana), CityArts Inc. (New York, NY), King County Public Art Collection (Seattle, WA), Lewis and Clark College (Portland, OR) and Nike Inc. (Beaverton, OR).


October 1, 2020
November 28, 2020
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Event Type
Gallery, Visual Art
Pandemic Info
By Appointment


Elizabeth Leach Gallery
417 NW 9th Avenue
Portland, OR 97209 United States
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