One of Five artists in the “Pictures” exhibition, curated by Douglas Crimp at Artists Space in 1977, Smith was associated with a group of makers chosen for their appropriation of recognizable images – artists who absorbed the visual detritus of contemporary life and reanimated those images in the context of their work. The “Pictures” artists have achieved lasting resonance, and in “Sign Language”… Smith presents a new body of work that, at a time of ever-increasing visual saturation, seems all the more relevant.
- Lilly Lampe
Smith's paintings, which look like blueprints of dreams, consist of disparate symbols, set out diagrammatically on monochromatic backgrounds... Smith sets the images down with such deliberateness that we feel impelled to search for deeper meanings and unearth a narrative in the storyboards. These paintings all looked as if they were made by a visionary artist rather than by someone who has spent a lifetime in the art world. That Smith retains a sense of innocence makes his work all the more compelling.
- Barbara Pollack
"Smith, whose work hangs in the public collections of the Whitney, the New York Public Library, the Dallas Museum of Art and the former MAM (soon to be PAMM) in Miami, to name but a few, took 10 years off from painting to pore over his father’s writings and recordings and pen the memoir Walking Through Walls, which has recently been optioned for a series by Showtime."
- Christina Lawrence
Like a magic act, Philip Smith’s new paintings happen right before your eyes, but you’re still not quite sure what it is you’ve seen. The pictures themselves are straightforward enough, amalgamations of simple line drawings that have been made piece by piece and then scraped away and made again. Working on a monochrome surface that is white or gray or occasionally a single color, Smith uses images that are glyph-like and diagrammatic, and therefore freighted like portents with uncertain meaning. His paintings are pale and otherworldly, palimpsests of notations made at different times for uncertain reasons, images that seem to embody the unknown in the very traces of their erasures. They remain open in their apparent randomness, images juxtaposed by chance or perhaps by an esoteric design, giving rise to a suggestive logic that is unexpected and even revelatory.
"The deeply personal symbolism of Smith's art sets it apart from the detached approach of many of this contemporaries who appropriated images in a deadpan or ironic fashion. According to Jen Mergel, senior curator of contemporary art at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, Smith has shown 'how an image-saturated age doesn't just affect our conscious, but also our subconscious.'"
- Julie Belcove
Artists Space, 1977
This exhibition featured Sherrie Levine, Jack Goldstein, Robert Longo, Troy Brauntuch and Philip Smith which influenced and gave rise to the "Pictures Generation."