Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Casey Jex Smith at Swarm (Oakland)

Note: This exhibit is scheduled to close on 6/17/07.

Casey Jex Smith is a young Bay Area artist who treats his background as a Mormon as a primary source of imagery. He told me that there’s a lifetime of visual material in the thousand images that the Mormon church has officially approved for use in church matters. He's also fascinated by the sci-fi imagery he grew up with, although not much of this has entered his work yet.

Smith’s solo show at Swarm Gallery in Oakland includes drawings, an array of notebook sketches, a wall collage, a peephole sculpture, and an installation that includes sod. Smith has great drawing skills, and his finished drawings are the core of the show.

The show's largest work is “Faith and Faith,” a 2-part drawing 21 feet high, affixed to the wall. (The photo at the top shows a large detail.) This image reminds me of the cover of the Scientology book, Dianetics, although Smith's approach is much less literal.

At the other end of the scale is a 7.5" x 7.5" drawing entitled “Hidden Treasure” (image above).

A 15” x 11” drawing called “Moroni” (image above) shows the artist’s characteristic way of mixing media and creating motifs that float in space. (In the Mormon religion, Moroni was the angel who visited the founder of the church, Joseph Smith, Jr.). Another fine drawing of the same size is “Flaming Spear of the Gentile” (image below).

When the artist heard that his local church wanted to throw out a supply of images, he rescued them and turned portions of the trove into a wall collage. The collage is so full of costumes—and so male-centric—that it feels oppressive to me. The title is “Fervor.” (The photo below shows a portion of the installation.)

For the show's opening reception, the artist asked that Jello be served. And so it came to pass (photo below). Smith told me that Jello is so popular in Utah that it has been declared the state’s official snack food. (I checked—it’s true.)


Anonymous said...

Casey is such an intriguing artist and curious person. His work is so beautiful and boyish.

I grew up around Mormons, and I just think they are great. Fascinating. Casey's work reminds me of what 0 period seminary was like across the street from my high school.

The wall collage is crazy. I want him to pick out some characters and do a drawing with me.

Mormons like Muslims...that's what two boys on a bike told my family when I was 12.

Anonymous said...

This guy is one of the best things in the Bay Area right now! The colors mixed with the excellent drawing are amazing.