The platitudes painted by Bob and Roberta Smith (the curious, dual pseudonym for singular British artist Patrick Brill) are not at all ironic. When he paints the words "Art does real and permanent good," he means it.
For The Art Party (Gotham Golem) (at The Boiler through December 18), Smith employed his signature sign-maker's technique—think bright, bold colors and a very steady hand—to paint his manifesto on, among other things, planks of wood, cardboard and car parts. "The Museum of Modern Art is too expensive," says a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. "Dancers Make New York Dance," says an old headboard. An un-finished documentary on Smith's work plays on the gallery wall. But Smith's "Gotham Golem," a hulking, boxy sculpture, takes up much of the space, its purpose loosely defined as a protector of the arts from budget cuts (particularly severe lately in the UK) and ideological opponents.
With all too familiar slogans painted on pizza boxes and empty milk containers, none of Smith's objects are all that impressive on their own, but then that's the point, isn't it?
"Everything is made," Smith painted on a ratty suitcase that sits on a pedestal. "All production has been designed by human beings," says another. The point of Smith's work isn't necessarily the objects that he produces, but rather the idea that everything is, in fact, art. For Smith, the chemist who develops a color "creates" (with a capital "C") the same way that a painter does. The documentary's closing line sums it up more succinctly than this reviewer can.
"Make your own damn art," Smith insists. "Don't expect me to do it for you."
(Images courtesy the artist and The Boiler/Pierogi)