Weisman Museum Showcases Alexis Smith Art Exhibition
Alexis Smith’s art exhibit Private Lives and Public Affairs will be on display at Pepperdine University's Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art through Sunday, April 1.
For over 40 years, Smith has made collages that explore the deeper meanings behind popular culture. She typically begins with an array of images—ranging from thrift store finds to nostalgic advertisements—and juxtaposes them with poetic and poignant texts. Her art underscores the powerful role the media has in shaping our self-image and our lives.
This exhibition focuses on key works from the 1980s, juxtaposed with more recent pieces. The centerpiece is Past Lives, a room-sized installation originally created with poet Amy Gerstler in 1989 that recreates the look and feel of a typical American elementary school classroom.
Enigmatic texts written on the walls read like excerpts from the comments in a report-card or employee review. The empty chairs—representing vastly different periods and styles—remind us of the various past lives that were shaped in school rooms like this. This fascinating and psychically charged work alludes to the complicated feelings—ranging from hope to regret—that emerge in our recollections of childhood.
The elements in her collages are chosen to reflect the quirks of our contemporary psyche. Her art is based on double entendre and is filled with puns and tongue-in-cheek wit. “Out of inanimate objects, I find connections with the real world,” Smith says. “These things create the ether of meaning that people share, though they are not conscious of it. That fascinates me, and that is what I make art out of.”
The collage works in this exhibition, dating from 1976 to the present, were chosen to focus on universal but particularly timely subjects such as truth and media; gender and power; and ambition and success. Mean Streets (1980) and Daily Planet (1986) use references to real and fictitious newspapers to reflect on how “factual” information can be used to distort, misinform, and manipulate. Especially poignant works such as I Married a Monster from Outer Space… (1982), A Girl with Brains Ought To (1983), My Fair Lady (1985), and Peaches (1990) expose how common clichés of everyday language support and reinforce female subservience. Eight Ball (1988), Modernism (2002), and Manly Men Doing Manly Things (2014) remind us that the drive for material success often blinds us to the real pleasures of life.
Alexis Smith: Private Lives and Public Affairs is part of the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art’s on-going series of one-person exhibitions focusing on artists who made key contributions to the Los Angeles art scene: Lita Albuquerque: AOR (2006), Charles Arnoldi: Wood (2008), Robert Dowd: Pop Art Money (2009), and Larry Bell: Pacific Red (2017).
Alexis Smith: Private Lives and Public Affairs is curated by Michael Zakian, in cooperation with the Honor Fraser Gallery. Funding was provided by the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation and an anonymous donor.
The Weisman Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 11 AM to 5 PM.