Leon Polk Smith
Leon Polk Smith: Affinities in Art & Design
August 1, 2023 - January 27, 2024
The Leon Polk Smith exhibition features paintings, works on paper, and design. It includes selections from our own Leon Polk Smith Collection, numbering 756 works on paper. The Leon Polk Smith Foundation gifted this collection to us in 2015. The design objects come from our George R. Kravis II Collection of fine art and design, which we received in 2018. A select number of paintings will be borrowed from institutions and private collections.
This exhibition explores affinities between the art of Leon Polk Smith and twentieth-century design. It offers an avenue for gaining greater understanding of the abstraction of this under-recognized American painter beyond his contribution as a pioneer of Hard-Edge painting. The affinities represent familial resemblances in terms of ideas and aesthetics rather than any strict stylistic connections, though he did create painted screens as part of his body of work and built modest furniture for his home spaces.
The exhibition explores the affinities thematically as follows: Stripping down; Nature Revisited; Color Explosions; Pop Vibes; and Paper Revolutions. For each, selections of Smith's works on paper and paintings are paired with examples of furniture, lighting, and decorative objects. These juxtapositions offer a new perspective on Smith's art as evolving in tune with the aesthetics and ideas driving developments in art and design of the time. His achievement can be appreciated not only as an ongoing involvement with Hard-Edge painting but also as a dynamic, innovative practice animated by concurrent trends in contemporary visual arts and culture.
Using Leon Polk Smith’s art as a case study, this exhibition also shows common grounds between art and design, fields of creativity that are typically siloed. These connections reveal transcendent aesthetic preferences that unify the visual arts of this period. In turn, these preferences are linked to familiar developments in culture at large, which offer another way of accessing that most challenging language of art—abstraction.
Arlette Klaric, Ph.D., Curator Emerita, OSU Museum of Art
- Press & Publications
VIDEO | "Both Sides of the Line" A documentary produced by the City of Ada, OK and DustBowl Films, 2016. Run time: 25 minutes.
COLLECTION BROCHURE | Leon Polk Smith
COLLECTION BROCHURE | George R. Kravis II
FAMILY GUIDES [English] [Spanish] | Family guides provide additional information, context, and fun activities to engage younger audiences. Guides are provided by the Museum Education staff with the help of our University student staff.
AUDIO [English] [Spanish] | “The Space of a Lifetime: Leon Polk Smith,” 2023 follows the life and art of Leon Polk Smith from the plains of Oklahoma to the streets of New York. Highlighting the George R. Kravis II Collection, this account also reveals connections between Smith’s work and industrial design objects of the same period and their shared grounding in American daily life and culture. Script: Arlette Klaric, Ph.D., Curator Emerita. Production: Daedelus Hoffman, Curator of Education.
Funding for this exhibition has been provided by the Leon Polk Smith Foundation.
Funding for this season of exhibitions and programs is provided by Malinda & Richard Fischer, Riccarda de Eccher & Bill Goldston, Caroline & John Linehan, Suzanne Sugg, and the OSU Museum of Art Advocates.
Top Image: (left to right) 1) Charles (American, 1907-1978) and Ray (American, 1912-1988) Eames, DCW Chair, 1946, made by Herman Miller, Zeeland, Michigan, molded ash plywood, aniline-dyed red, and rubber. Oklahoma State University Museum of Art, George R. Kravis II Collection, 2018.016.060. 2) Leon Polk Smith (American, 1906-1996), Dusty Miller, 1953, gouache on paper, Oklahoma State University Museum of Art, Stillwater; Gift of Leon Polk Smith Foundation, 2015.011.357. ©Leon Polk Smith Foundation. 3) Leon Polk Smith (American, 1906-1996), Untitled, 1956, collage on paper, Oklahoma State University Museum of Art, Stillwater; Gift of Leon Polk Smith Foundation, 2015.011.357. ©Leon Polk Smith Foundation. 4) Leon Polk Smith (American, 1906-1996), Untitled, 1957, collage, Oklahoma State University Museum of Art, Stillwater; Gift of Leon Polk Smith Foundation, 2015.011.357. ©Leon Polk Smith Foundation. 5) Frank O. Gehry (Canadian-American, b. 1929), Easy Edges Side Chair (Wiggle Chair), 1969, made by Jack Borgan, cardboard and Masonite. Oklahoma State University Museum of Art, George R. Kravis II Collection, 2018.016.158.