In the early 2000s, a group of young bombastic artists charged and then defined the downtown art scene. The core of the group was Ryan McGinley, Dan Colen, Nate Lowman, Agathe Smith, the late Dash Snow, and a few other close friends. Their work–volatile, nihilistic, and more often than not hedonistic –set the tone for the city’s creative community in the early post-9/11 era.
A decade later, this group is now the establishment, and the presence of a comparably unified, energized, and emergent scene is debatable. Their influence is undeniable, though, and a crop of fresh new artists is making its own way under their direction.
One such individual is Lucien Smith, a 23-year-old Dada-influenced painter and sculptor who trained under Dan Colen as a student at Cooper Union. A native New Yorker, Smith got an early start when he enrolled at Cooper and reached out to OHWOW’s Aaron Bonderoff at 17. He began working with Red Hook art collective The Still House Group (“There were no studios, just a bunch of us getting together, seeing what everyone was working on”) and producing “conceptless” collage and line drawing one-offs shortly after. ““I never really started a series of paintings there and often I would trash a lot of the things I was working on,” he says. He also experimented with “rain paintings,” large scale, paint-splattered canvases that mimic surfaces covered in raindrops, that have since became a signature.
Five years later, Smith has refined his genre-spanning aesthetic and is starting to show on his own. His style hints of Colen—the use of repurposed found urban objects in his sculpture, the familiar street art-influenced brand of downtown cool—but it is also very much his own. Smith recently unveiled his first US solo show at OHWOW Los Angeles.
“The show is called Seven Rain Paintings, and it’s not exactly what people are expecting,” explains the young artist of his series of simple, black and blue paint-splattered canvases on view now. “Yes, there are seven rain paintings in the show, but the organization of the works plays into this idea of relationships—relationships between people and relationships between objects.
“The Rain paintings in my head serve as backdrops for situations between people and/or objects, very much like backdrops in a play. They become activated when something is placed in front of them; only then do their scale and size come in to effect.”
The works, created over a year-long period in a town east of Hudson, were made by filling a fire extinguisher with paint. An installation of wood chips and layered sound surrounds them. Smith doesn’t think he would have been able to make them had he stayed in New York. “I had lost motivation in the city and I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I needed to leave,” he says. “I had no intention of making work, but it happened naturally and I came back missing the city and seeing things I had never appreciated before.”
“Seven Rain Paintings” is up until October 20th. He’s currently working of a series of NYC-inspired photographic pieces.