Mythic Imagery At Newport Art
by Suzanne Volmer
“Outer Myths,” Jason Smith’s solo exhibition, on view at the Newport Art Museum’s Wright Gallery through May 1, explores Smith’s fascination with creation myths. It is a kind of global study he has mined methodically, continent by continent, and then translated into a pointillist, mixed-media drawing style.
Included are 16 artworks shown as introductory vignette that showcase the young artist’s talent. All drawings are sized uniformly, giving order to the presentation. Color opacity is a characteristic of Smith’s signature style that builds form through a moray of oscillating lines, causing shapes to emerge and recede. Smith uses white, black and soft pastel dots and bursts of Day-Glo color as the basis of his mark-making. Rather than the standard neutrals of archival framing, the artist’s mat choices are dusky pastels, earth tones and black. They create an effect that adds cohesive rhythmic flow to the exhibit’s organization.
Smith’s mythic imagery carries the connotation of an anthropological find, as if the artist is speaking about the remnants of an archeological dig. In a contemporary sense his work has a highly illustrative quality and carries with it Outsider Art intonation. By drawing on a Dura-Lar surface, the artist imparts a sense of dreamy atmosphere to his imagery, and the effect is that information appears to hover in space skimming its secondary paper ground.
The show contains works the artist made from 2011 to 2015. The content is often organized as an edge-to-edge blanketing motif, and at times his style hits on a sensibility reminiscent of Paul Klee’s small watercolors. Smith’s 2015 African and Asiatic subject matter switches into the visual realm of fetishistic talisman.