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Ben Smith Art Exhibit One of Boldest of Season

From The Atlanta Journal, November 19, 1970
By Clyde Burnett

The exhibit of recent work by Ben Smith of Atlanta, showing at Galerie Illien, 123 14th St. NE, certainly is one of the boldest shows to appear in the Atlanta area this season.

The big images are sometimes 10 feet or more in height and are executed in the oldest of graphic processes, wood block printing.

Smith uses big sheets of plywood, often utilizing the grain of the top veneer, in places where textures are desirable, to create contrasts between decorative areas and big, black forms which float in pure white space.

The block prints which Smith executes by hand inking and careful printing in sections, are mounted on big canvas panels and bonded and coated to create surfaces which are presumably as durable as acrylic painted surfaces.

The effect is similar to that experienced in the viewing of the big abstract expressionist works by Gottlieb, Rothko, Klein, et al, except that the subjects are quite figurative.

Smith's subjects are robed figures, not specifically monks or Western or Eastern orders, nor are they always even totally human, animal or mechanical. For example, a figure with wheels for locomotion does have a humanoid face, but in another image, the humanoid figure has feet with prehensile toes. One is an animal-like figure with talons for hands and wears a monk-like costume. And a floating, mechanical man torso, which is pierced by arrows, has a human face within its helmet.

That all sounds a good deal grimmer than it actually is. There is a kind of exultation in these big figures, plus a searching for universal meanings.

It's an exhibit which intrigues one and sticks in the memory.

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