Leon Polk Smith

Leon Polk Smith
Acrylic paint on torn yellow wove paper.
40 x 25 5/8 inches (101.6 x 65.1 cm)
Gift of the Leon Polk Smith Foundation.
© Leon Polk Smith / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Signed (Leon Polk Smith) and dated ('68), lower right.


An abstract painter throughout his life, Leon Polk Smith developed a distinct formal vocabulary which combined Native American motifs -- reflecting his Cherokee heritage -- with European modernism. Mondrian, whose work Smith first saw in 1936 while attending summer school in New York City, was a major influence although Smith went beyond the constraints of Neoplasticism to explore a wide range of geometric compositions, often based on interlocking forms. Smith's hard-edge style and vast expanses of color anticipated the minimalist movement of the 1960s. This sheet is an example of Smith's torn paper drawings. To create it, he covered a yellow sheet of paper with blue paint and subsequently tore it to reveal a beveled line. He worked out the composition in graphite on the verso in advance and taped it after tearing to secure it.

Artist page: