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Arvie Smith: The Lower 9th

beppu wiarda gallery
Portland OR thru Jul 2, 2006

Arvie Smith - The Lower 9th
Arvie Smith, The Lower 9th (2006), oil on linen [beppu wiarda gallery, Portland OR, through Jul 2]

Arvie Smith paints complex themes with high energy and intensity. His discourse is largely focused on the history of African American culture, where he takes a gregarious, playful approach to issues of slavery, brutality, racism and injustice and uses a vibrant colour palette to draw the viewer in. Smith is a storyteller. Through his large canvases, he connects his own soul to the societal dispersion of his African ancestry. This diaspora is important to Smith’s works as he is often revisiting the most vital elements embodied by a repressed culture. 

Smith’s main characters take compositional precedence in the foreground and are often surrounded by a narrative that unfolds with plenty of visual information. Various dramas and sympathies are played out in Smith’s paintings through curvilinear forms, fluid movements, saturated hues and facial expressions that set the tone.

Arvie Smith - Cake Walk
Arvie Smith, Cake Walk (2006), oil on linen [beppu wiarda gallery, Portland OR, through July 2]

In this exhibit, many of Smith’s newest works reference the turmoil experienced by survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Images of flooding are set behind the iconic Aunt Jemima in The Lower 9th, referring to the Ninth Ward. A predominantly and historically black neighborhood at the lowest part of the Mississippi River flood plain, it suffered the worst effects of the hurricane. Cake Walk, referring to the cakewalk dance which originated as a way for slaves to mock the formal behaviour of their white owners, is a sombre parody on the displacement of African slaves to southern plantations.


Allyn Cantor

Arvie Smith - Minstrel's Daughter
Arvie Smith, Minstrel's Daughter (2006), oil on linen [beppu wiarda gallery, Portland OR, through July 2]

 Wed, May 31, 2006