Continuing through March 17, 2012
San Francisco painter David Michael Smith presents a truly beautiful and content-rich body of work in “Elegy,” the artist’s first solo gallery exhibition. On view are fourteen works (including two studies) that range greatly in size — from a petite 3” by 2 1/4” to a moderately sized 36” by 24,” with all the rest of the works falling in between. This gives the show a lively rhythm that plays well off the intricacy and movement of the collection.
Exceptionally well painted, the works are finely detailed allegories that weave together abundant Catholic symbolism, endangered wildlife, and pop imagery to address the current topic of our changing environment — specifically climate change and threatened species.
The works are at times grand and dramatic, while at other times gently innocent, always stopping just short of becoming heavy-handed or outright sad. Smith is well versed in the effectiveness of the Catholic tradition of combining beauty and tragedy, and he wields it well here. Humor is also used effectively to lighten what could, in some cases, easily become a morose visual dirge. Not to be overlooked are the several instances in which the artist has presented his work in ornate handcrafted frames that give them a sculptural quality.
In the artist interview published in the exhibition catalog, Smith sums up a central driving force in his work when he states, “I think the traditional principles of beauty in art — like harmony, composition, line, color — still resonate with people on a subconscious level. I find people respond to the lushness, the sensuality of a beautifully painted surface.” “Elegy” resonates and provides plenty to respond to.