Monday, September 12, 2022

Alexis Smith: The American Way - Playful and Subversive

 by Patricia Frischer

Eat that peach

Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla
Sept 15 to Jan 29, 2022

Here is what the museum says,  "Alexis Smith: The American Way is the first retrospective of the California artist in thirty years. Smith’s collages combine found texts, images, and objects to underscore and exaggerate how we are shaped by the media and culture that surround us. With her signature sense of humor, Smith turns a keen eye to literature, movies, and pop culture to scrutinize the myth of the American Dream. Themes of self-invention and reinvention are at the center of many of these narratives, whether they concern questions of identity and the roles of women in U. S. society, or criticisms of the pretenses of wealth and class. Situated alongside movements of Conceptual and Pop art and shaped by the Feminist movements of the 1970s, Smith’s extensive work in collage provokes critical thought about the reality of contemporary American culture."

All of that is true. But this show is personal and much more than an analysis presented of Alexis Smith. Here is what I say. This exhibition is about the story of my life and probably the lives of all of my girlfriends. I can see myself in every work. I can laugh and delight at the images and wonder and ponder about the unknowns. I see myself as a girl and a woman and an artist and a wife. I see myself over time and space. 

All the captions are my own quotes and not those of Alexis Smith.

How do we live up to the images portrayed of women in the advertisement?

Why didn't we appreciate that we had perfect bodies when we were young?

Was I the only one that escaped from the midwest?

We were supposed to like Pat Boone, but we lusted after Elvis. 

How soon could we see the world?

Could it really be true, Marilyn, that men seldom make passes at girls that wear glasses?  Were the contacts worth it when all I had to do was wait for the cataract operation. 

Yes, I mean stop when I say stop.

Did I sabotage my success as the price was too high?

He was gorgeous, but I had nothing in common with him. 

I wished I could write on the walls, scribble on the floor and in general be bigger than life. 

Real life doesn't have an intermission and you can't pause the remote control or fast forward. 

Forever Jane (Austin) with the Blue Boy waiting in the wings. 

Was I really defined by my breast as I feel the same after my mastectomy? 

Not the Marlborough man but yearning to be a cowgirl and ride 'em. 

I did my bit and marched against the war in Viet Nam. Got gassed at People's Park, and lived to tell the tale.

Bring the heat, bring the red carpet.

We recycle and we upcycle.

Porn was so exciting. We were so young. 

Ladies on a train, sweet mysteries of life.

And proud of it. 

Does she or doesn't she? Is she a she?

The road more travelled. 

Go and find yourself in this exhibition. See yourself revealed and celebrated. 

Alexis Smith: The American Way
Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla
Sept 15 to Jan 29, 2022
A stunning catalog is available for this show with lots of extra photos and text. 
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