Sunday, November 10, 2013

Jack Smith: Cologne, 1974

An intriguing little exhibit on now at Space in London is Jack Smith: Cologne, 1974, featuring a film of the artist by Birgit Hein, as well as photos by Gwenn Thomas.

In the corridor outside the images is a photocopy of a typically contrary interview with Smith that also appeared in 1974, in which he rages against "Uncle Fish-hook" (Jonas Mekas) and offers many poetic and somewhat incoherent opinions.

I have always been a bit bemused by Smith, as well as his work. I do wonder if he didn't suffer from some kind of personality disorder, given the way he conducted and expressed himself and seemed possessed by so many grudges that seemed to drive his work. Certainly, he vented his spleen in a most expressive way, but was he a well person? I have my doubts.

The film by Hein, which is shown on a television, depicts a visit Smith made to the Cologne Zoo, in which he holds court by some cages and calls for an end to the selling of artists' work to galleries and museums that exploit them. "Art should be free!" he demands, calling for museums to be open all night or filled with something useful.

On the walls of the bright white room (I could still smell the paint) are black and white photos by Thomas of the same appearance showing Smith in an elaborate head-dress or pith helmet interacting with the cages, as well as with a human figure. Not sure who that is. Did Smith identify somewhat with those caged beasts?

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