The Works Of David L. Smith At Town & Country
By Jud Yalkut
David L. Smith has been a practicing artist since he created gesture drawings and received his master’s degree at Iowa University, a school later attended by Jan Driesbach of the Dayton Art Institute. After serving in the army until 1946, Smith turned from gesture drawing to the exploration of monotypes, prints made from paintings on glass or similar surfaces that have continued through his life in Dayton.
For his exhibition at the Town & Country Fine Arts Center in Kettering through Sunday, October 24, Smith has gathered together a group of monotypes and associated works in drawing and watercolor. One watercolor in the current show entitled “Iowa Sunset” is based on a drawing done in Iowa over 30 years ago. A drawing called “Townscape, Iowa,” which Smith traced to turn into watercolors, expresses three different emotions, including a piece with a boy moving around in the snow with his dog called “No School Today.”
Smith’s imagery and his gestural style are quite infectious as in the old-time steam locomotive and coal car chugging along in his “Smoke and Steam.” Also, a full burst of gesture suffuses the exploding fountain spray and flowing curves of surrounding buildings in a public square of “Fountain.”
The forward motion of a helmeted runner in “Going for a Touchdown” creates a kinetic current, while the burst of energy in the multicolored monotype “Jitterbugs” has two couples, one closely gyrating and the other exuding centrifugal force as they rhythmically cavort against washes of translucent color.
Titling this show “Motion and Emotion,” Smith has noted that it “represent a somewhat new departure in what I am presenting.” Always looking to explore, he states that “it is not a ‘new style’ but is rather a bringing to the public eye a more personal sort of thing than what people have expected from me in the past… While the pen and ink landmarks of urban Dayton are still something I thoroughly enjoy doing, this time I have brought out monotypes and emotional works that I have been doing since my student days but haven’t featured in public exhibits
Smith’s mastery of the monotype has led to conducting workshops in this technique at various venues and he has availed himself of membership in the Dayton Printmakers Cooperative. He has hosted printmaking shows and competitions in memory of his late wife who was also a proponent of monotype, the most recent presented this year at the Dayton Society of Painters and Sculptors.
In his practice of monotype, Smith uses pencil sketches that guide his placement of oil paint onto plate glass. His particular flair, which imparts the theme of “motion” in this exhibit’s title, is to lay the printing paper on lightly and to move it slightly to get movement refracted, running the brayer over it each time.
Most dramatic are the two variations of an antique motor car. “Flivver I” and “Flivver II” with their futuristic forward blurring of motion expressing the fully kinetic energy of early transportation and its powerful realization. Non-mechanized movement is characterized in Smith’s portrayals of a “Horse and Jockey” in two variations with overlapped tones of blue and brown creating a post-Impressionist effect but imbued with a hurtling energy. “Horse & Jockey II” has the afterimages of the jockey’s and the horse’s forward head movements and the blur of multiple leg movements emphasized by cascading blobs of blue oil color.
Further, gray modulations form the “Mystical Maidens” and their youngest cohort, and the man in a suit reading a newspaper and the young woman with child below her seat, both sitting on a park bench during “Lunch Break.” Three dancing figures with vibrating black limb delineations form a “Rhythm in Black,” and delicate graceful lines reverberating into an aura of motion enhance the moving figures of two
Smith’s watercolors often venture into abstract and more mystical realms with such images as the broad washes and white paper spaces that mysteriously delineate “On Mt. Kilimanjaro,” and the arched soft white swooping wings and washy spaces of “In Flight.” Other images have a soft realism to them like the pink blooming trees along a river’s edge as a subject sits on a bench in “Riverscape, Afternoon Sun.” The broken sketchy lines of group figure studies like the sitting and lying men in “Tired G.I.s” and the conferring couples of “Bikers Relaxing” have sculptural lines that recall the wartime figure drawings of Henry Moore.
The Town & Country Fine Art Center is located at 300 E. Stroop Rd., Kettering. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (937) 293-5381 or visit www.TownAndCountryFineArtCenter.com
Reach DCP visual arts critic Jud Yalkut at JudYalkut@daytoncitypaper.com