Book signing and reception with Paul Martineau and Leslie Smolan
September 28, 2023 6-8 pm
This exhibition is Rodney Smith’s first in New York, and reflects a marriage of precise order and geometry with surrealism and eccentricity. Paul Martineau, Curator of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, describes Smith’s work “Like Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’, his photographs lead us down the rabbit hole to a fantastical place that is just beyond our reach.” Armed with recurring props including bowler hats, topiaries, bicycles, and staircases while sharing stylistic themes with René Magritte, Andrew Wyeth, and Tim Burton, Smith’s photographs encompass a carefully crafted world that is somehow both solemn and whimsical - and uniquely his own.
In addition to his commissions from the world’s leading fashion media and brands, Smith remained passionate about producing photographic prints, once stating “For me, the print is the creation, the purpose, the result of my endeavor.” Rebecca A. Senf, chief curator at the Center for Creative Photography at The University of Arizona, notes, “Smith’s distinctive photographic vision relied on his exacting technical precision . . . Knowing that all was technically in place meant that making pictures became an experience of freedom and creativity.”
Rodney Smith (1947–2016) was born in New York City. Smith rejected the commercialism of his father, founder of Anne Klein and Pierre Cardin, to earn a Master’s degree in Theology from Yale University while studying photography under Walker Evans. In the late 1970’s, Smith began perfecting his technique and developing his style as he photographed a diverse mix of cultures around the world. By the mid-1990s, his editorial clients included The New York Times, W Magazine, Vanity Fair, Departures and New York Magazine and he photographed the advertising campaigns for Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Ralph Lauren and Paul Stuart, among others. After Smith’s death in 2016, his wife Leslie Smolan became Executive Director of The Estate of Rodney Smith, which is dedicated to preserving and sharing his archive with audiences around the world. Six books of Smith’s work have been produced, most recently including Rodney Smith: A Leap of Faith, which was published by Getty Publications and written by Paul Martineau. This follows the J. Paul Getty Museum’s acquisition of ten Rodney Smith photographs for the museum’s permanent collection. Rodney Smith’s work is also included in the permanent collections of The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Portland Museum of Art in Maine, and the Princeton University Art Museum, among others.