“I’m too old to have faith in politics, but I do have faith in art.”
With works that incorporate magic realism, Surrealism and Modernism the bi-cultural artist Ray Smith has two birth certificates; one American the other Mexican.
As he explained to Expatica’s Kirstin Bernardi “I’ve always had two names – Mexican and American. The day after I was born in the US, my father went across the border and paid someone and got me a second birth certificate in Mexico. My birth certificate in US says Ray Smith, and on the Mexican one, Raymundo Smithe Iturría. I lived in México for 25 years, until 1985 when an earthquake damaged our house. My wife is Mexican and we still have a house in Cuernavaca.”
During his time in Mexico Smith studied mural painting and was exposed to the politicization of the Mexican Mural Renaissance.
“I studied muralism in Mexico when I was growing up. I worked with another expat who came to Mexico after WWII who had been an apprentice to the muralists. He knew all of the muralists: [José Clemente] Orozco, [Diego] Rivera, [Frida] Kahlo,” Smith recalled.
He is also drawn to the work of Spanish artists with Picasso and Dali having had direct influences in his work to date.
As he says “It is about Spanish painting, but it’s not trying to chase after Spanish paintings. Picasso is the master of metaphysics– he’s sort of all over the place, this big icon. If I were going to take anyone else on, it would be Goya or Velazquez. The complete, absolute magic of Velazquez’s Las Meninas and some of his religious paintings – the Christ, the bird with a piece of bread in his mouth… this man has made unbelievable paintings. I come to Spain about five times per year, and it never gets old.”
The contorted and morphed figures that populate his work are reflections about his view of the human condition; the absurdities of society, family, culture and war, but not the political.
As he says “I think one looks more towards the humanity of things rather than the political. By the simple fact of mentioning politics, there’s an inhumanity already. Art should be wordless, and politics is full of words… The only way I can address the humanity of man is not through politics, it’s through art... maybe.”
Smith’s current exhibition UNguernice Drawings & Paintings is on show at New York’s Stux & Haller Gallery until the 28th of May.