Studio Visit: Mark John Smith
Occasionally a studio visit turns into a new best friendship, in addition to the hopeful collaboration- this is the case with the enigmatic Mark John Smith. Hailing from Cambridge, he’s got the accent, the smile, and an out of the box body of work that explores self-identity under the influence of branding, advertising, and the effects of compact city living. Saying these words, one may imagine an oeuvre of brand reappropriation, the reimagining of logos and commercial text that artists have redone for decades. This is why I love Smith’s work, his tools of language in this search for defining himself in the modern world are relatable, familiar, and tactile. My favorite pieces are his Duvet Series, which play with the sense of individual space in the beehive of apartments, office towers and subway systems we New Yorkers call life. Each duvet is appropriately twin size, claiming our own turf (even if snugly small), and from first glance emblazoned with sketchy, splotchy bright colors. Loose and free-formed, the spray painted gestures sometimes spell out works, sometimes just symbols. The colors evoke graffiti and protest signs; giving a flavor of the angst I like to call “having a bad New York day,” when you feel you have to fight for your own space and validation in a city of near-anonymity.
The duvet acts as soft sculpture, as cloak in a performance experience, as a wall hanging, much like many of the items we create dual purposes for in our tiny apartments. This series and other works are currently on display at Ivy Brown Gallery on Hudson, I highly suggest making a trip.