LEON POLK SMITH ARTIST STATEMENTS


Statement by Leon Polk Smith, 1961:

"Three elements, which have interested me in art are: line, color, and the concept of space and its use as a positive force.

"Mondrian's discovery of the interchangeability of form and space greatly interested me, even though it was limited to rectilinear shapes. In the early 40's I set out from Mondrian to find a way of freeing this concept of space so that it could be expressed with the use of curved line as well as straight. I soon found that this was not an easy thing to do. After more than a decade of intense search and painting (in 1954) somewhat by accident, while drawing with free line on a spherical surface, I observed a concomitant situation wherein the idea of space and form were complementary to each other as well as interchangeable. After many of these drawings I was able to carry this situation over into paintings on a circular format. And not until I had done more than a dozen of the circular paintings could I achieve this interchangeable use of space and form on a rectangular canvas. Then, more than ever, there was the curved space which moves in every direction and when at a particular point a line changes its course you cannot tell whether it turns right or left, up or down, in or out. A curved space all across the canvas, with only two colors to go by. The extending points where these two colors meet seem only to indicate a means by which to maneuver through this evolved space which has absorbed the form, releasing it of its every need to behave any longer as form.

"As to color, the traditional use of somber color was never a part of my environment. I grew up in the Southwest where the colors in nature were pure and rampant and where my Indian neighbors and relatives used color to vibrate and shock in all is intensity with equal rampancy."


Statement by Leon Polk Smith, 1985:

"It seems as time goes on and as my paintings become, in some ways, simpler... [that] they at the same time become stronger, more highly charged and excitedly activated beyond all bounds. The various areas are still flat, but they do not remain so. With careful observation, they (the various areas) begin to curve in every direction, like sculptured space moving in, out, up, down, around, back, and forth. Each area pressing the other. The mystery of this situation is combined with an endless contemplative serenity.

"I have always felt that I was born for my time, The Twentieth Century, and never resisting it I have moved along with it as easily and as naturally as air and the breeze move together or even at times on the spire of a tornado."