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Smith and Shannon

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The work of Ben Smith, currently at the Bienville Galler, hasn't changed radically in the four or five years I've been seeing it. Smith still does gigantic woodcuts, with one or two stark figures, which have the eerie and monumental qualities of Noh actors, or figures from a Tarot deck. Strange iconographic faces float able ritual costumes that splay out into swirling, rhythmic patterns. The stark contrast between the figure (usually in black, now fitted in with neon hues) and the white background --- the neat dovetailing of negative and positive space --- hasn't changed. But this lack of change isn't really an objection, for the single works thus produced have an imagistic power that could content one with seeing more and more of the same, except that I sense Smith veering uncomfortably close to that boundary between "creator" and "producer." For my taste, the color doesn't really add, it just distracts from the power of the wood-grain and black and white. I suspect Smith was primarily influenced by more elaborate, decorative inventions, a broader range of subject (he also died at 26, so there's no way of knowing how he would have developed) and Munakata --- well, Munakata discovered the worled afresh eash day. No two prints of his are anything alike. Perhaps it is wrong to ask that an artist be involved in a process of continual discover, change and invention. Perhaps, once he's found a ...