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Theater and Performance Works
September 12 – November 7, 2014
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Gladstone Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of works by Jack Smith at our Brussels location. A key figure in the cultural history of downtown New York film, performance, and art, Smith began producing work in the late 1950s and became one of the most accomplished and influential artists working in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Through his own exploits and adventures, Smith developed a dazzling vision of the world, transforming downtown New York into a stage for his forays into photography and film.

The exhibition draws its inspiration from the groundbreaking exhibition Rituals of Rented Island, which opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2013. Curated by Jay Sanders, the exhibition was the first survey of Smith’s performance and theater works of the 1970s, and was realized through the recreation of performance environments, and the presentation of film fragments, images, and ephemera. Theater and Performance Works will expand upon Sanders’ contextualization of Smith as a harbinger for much of the New York-based performance art and experimental theater.

Smith led the development of an underground theater scene in the early 1970s, staging performances in downtown lofts, storefronts, and other non-traditional spaces throughout what he referred to as the “rented island” of Manhattan. Shying away from any distinction between intimate performance and public spectacle, Smith developed a series of ongoing loft performances at his live/work space, the Plaster Foundation, which J. Hoberman described as performances that gave visitors the feeling that “what was enacted was no more or less than Smith’s daily existence.”

Among the works on view will be a recreation of Irrational Landlordism of Bagdad, featuring elaborately crafted brassieres, a slideshow, and other materials, which were originally presented at the Cologne Art Fair in 1977; photographic stills from Smith’s Plaster Foundation work Brassieres of Atlantis; props and stills from his subsequent works I Danced with a Penguin and The Secret of Rented Island; and hand drawn posters that he created to advertise upcoming performance works. Taken together the works illuminate Smith’s exuberant and discerning vision of his contemporary landscape, and highlight his tremendous contribution to the legacy of experimental and performance-based art.

Jack Smith was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1932 and died in New York in 1989. Smith was the subject of the exhibition Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan, 1970–1980 at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2013 and Jack Smith Normal Love at MoMA PS1 in 2012. In 1998 PS1 mounted a retrospective of Jack Smith’s work that traveled to the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.