The DART Board: 12.12.2019

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday December 12, 2019

Rodney Smith, a photographer of immeasurable talent, wit and intelligence, died in 2016 at the age of 68. His work, often commissioned by top magazine editors, spanned the arenas of fashion and finance, treating subjects from the human figure to nature’s landscapes—always imbued with his innate sense of surrealism, elegance and whimsy. Above: Scene from Members Opening last week; photo: Rick Smolan

Throughout his life, Smith was passionate about the print as an artifact. “For me, the print is the creation, the purpose, the result of my endeavor,” he wrote. Early on, he favored small silver gelatin prints mounted with large white mats. In the mid-2000’s, with the advent of archival pigment printing on watercolor paper, he finally embraced both color and large-scale printing with stunning results.

Now a selection of Rodney’s work is on display at the Edward Hopper House Museum & Study Center, in Nyack, New York. Curated by his wife and collaborator, designer Leslie Smolan, the exhibition presents works in the luminous black and white that signifies the photographer’s best-known work, as well some images in color; images that have remained embedded in the mind’s eye for their unusual perspective, as well as some being seen for the first time.

Left: Rodney Smith, Twins in a Tree, Sneedans Landing, 1999; at Edward Hopper House Museum & Study Center

In an Introduction to the beautifully executed catalogue, Bill Hunt writes:

Photographer Rodney Smith is like a great composer/musician/conductor— seasoned and practiced — who performs masterfully. Smith talks in musical terms: rhythm, resonance, form. As a visual artist he is a tuning fork with perfect tone. Om. The music of and in the work distinguishes it. And think capriccio, a mix of real and fantasy.

As clear and on point as Smith’s work seems, it is as if there is something withheld; something is elusive. This is what makes the images peculiarly appealing and why we are drawn to them. The photographs are great looking and spirited, even enlightened. In the most direct terms, they are very well done.

Smith refers to “unknowables” in his work, and he means chance. Technically we don’t see anything that has not been fully considered, but he does. He exists outside the work. Ironically it’s his “otherness” that gives the work resonance.

At the center of so many of these landscapes, there are a figure or two,  the subject or principal player, highlighted by a corona of light with the illumination coming from the beyond. The event has transcendence.

In the best of these, this central character is confronting a dilemma, an existential obstacle to be sorted out, sometimes by bumping up against it and sometimes by leaping over it.

This is the heart and soul of Rodney Smith.

Human in Nature: The Art & Wit of Rodney Smith continues through March 8, 2020. Edward Hopper House Museum & Study Center, in Nyack, NY Info 
Save the date: Saturday, January 25, 2020 Leslie Smolan gives a talk on the artist and his work. Info



Jeff Mermelstein, New York City, 1993


Talks / Book Events / Screenings / and Beyond

Thursday, December 12, 19

ICP-Bard MFA Symposium | Artwork: Whose Labor?, 6:30 pm. Abrons Art Center, 466 Grand Street, NY, NY Info

Saturday, December 14

From Drag to Dervish: A conversation between Gregg Bordowitz, Lia Gangitano, Devin N. Morris and Cay-Sophie Rabinowitz, moderated by Evan Moffitt, 6 pm. P.P.O.W., 535 West 22nd Street, NY, NY Info

Holiday Book Fair & Artist Signing with Alex Webb & Rebecca Norris Webb; Jessica Lange, Jeff Mermelstein, John Lehr, signings fron 1-2 pm; book fair, all day. Howard Greenberg Gallery, 41 East 57thStreet, NY, NY Info  

Bronx Senior Photo League, 3 pm, panel on current exhibition featuring works by Carmen Adorno, Mildred Vega, and Maria Meza will be joined by BSPL teachers Rhynna M. Santos and Kamal Badhey. Bronx Documentary Center, 614 Courtlandt Avenue, Bronx, NY Info

Monday, December 16

Tanya Marcuse | Fruitless; Fallen; Woven: in conversation with Francine Prose, 6:30 pm. New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, NY, NY Info

Looking Ahead: Friday, December 20
Café Nietzsche Drawing Club | New section begins Friday, December 20th with Peggy Roalf, 6 pm. The Met, 1000 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY Info Instagram


Harry Benson, Valentino, New York, 1984; this week at Staley-Wise


In Galleries / Lens-based Art

Thursday, December 12, 19

Yamamoto Masao | Itteki, 6-8 pm. Yancey Richardson, 525 West 22nd Street, NY, NY Info

James Casebere | On the Water’s Edge, 6-8 pm. Sean Kelly Gallery, 475 Tenth Avenue, NY, NY Info

Harry Benson | Behind the Scenes, 6-8pm. Staley-Wise Gallery, 100 Crosby Street, NY, NY Info

Friday, December 13

Linnéa Sjöberg | Upwards Though The Ceiling, 6-8 pm. Company Gallery, 73 Allen Street, NY, NY Info

Saturday, December 14

Lyndon Barrois Jr., Crystal Z. Campbell, Ranee Henderson, Shawne Michaelain Holloway, Ajay Kurlan, Jiri Skala | A Field of Meaning, 6-8 pm. Callicoon Fine Arts, 49 Delance Street, NY, NY Info

Fotografiska New York | Opening day with solo exhibitions: Ellen von Unwerth, Tawny Chatmon, Adi Nes, Helene Schmitz, Anastasia Taylor-Lind. 281 Park Avenue South, NY, NY Info

Special for LA Readers: Saturday, December 14

Bergamot Station Arts Center 25 Years \ 20+ Gallery Exhibitions and festivities, 11sm-6 pm. 2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica, CA Info courtesy Craig Krull


Nicholas Krushenick, this week at Garth Greenan Gallery


In Galleries

Thursday, December 12

Pat Passlof | Fifty Years on Paper, 6-8 pm. New York Studio School, 8 West 8th Street, NY, NY Info This exhibition runs in conjunction with Pat Passlof | The Brush is the Finger of the Brain at the Resnic/Passlof Foundation, Info

Nicholas Krushenick | Collage, 6-8 pm. Garth Greenan Gallery, 545 West 20th Street, NY, NY Info

Ornament | Ho-Hum All Ye Faithful | works by dozens of artists including Rob Pruitt, Claire Kent, Gabe Langholtz, to name a few. BravinLee programs, 526 West 26th Street, NY, NY Info

Members Open | Unleashed!, 6-9 pm. Society of Illustrators, 128 East 63rd Street, NY, NY Info

Closing Saturday, December 14

What About The Human Figure | Martha Edelheit, Shirley Gorelick, Marcia Marcus. Eric Firestone Gallery, 4 Great Jones Street, NY, NY Info