A legendary American artist, filmmaker and actor described by Andy Warhol as the only person he would ever copy and by John Waters as “the only true underground filmmaker”.
The films of Jack Smith (USA, 1932-1989), along with the artist’s complete body of work - including photographs, collages, drawings, slide shows, costumes, sculptures and props that were used in his performances - represent one of the most seminal and important oeuvres in twentieth century art. Born in Ohio and arriving in New York in 1953, Jack Smith transformed the detritus of post-war downtown New York into filmic tableaux vivants of exotic glamour and polysexual fantasy. Rejecting the conservative political climate of an America at war with Vietnam, the trends of Abstract Expressionism, the repression of queer expression and the abstention of the pornographic in high art, Jack Smith was one of the first proponents of the aesthetics which came to be known as 'camp' and 'trash', using no-budget means of production to create a visual cosmos heavily influenced by Hollywood kitsch and orientalism. An actor for Andy Warhol, Ken Jacobs and Robert Wilson, Smith sought in his own filmmaking to create an aesthetic of delirium. Smith’s influence is obvious in the work of artists such as Cindy Sherman, Mike Kelley, Matthew Barney, Nan Goldin, John Waters, Derek Jarman, Guy Maddin and Ryan Trecartin.