Aggressively Gestural Paintings by Josh Smith

A painting of a leaf in deep, harsh red and black tonesLeaf Print VIII, monotype on Yupo paper

New York-based artist Josh Smith is known for aggressively gestural paintings and prints that take recognizable figures and render them nearly abstract with layered additions of thick, heavy brush marks and deep pigments.

A painting with the name Josh SmithUntitled (JSP10173), oil on canvas


I find Smith’s process, and its visual result, quite fascinating. In some of his earliest paintings, Smith utilized his own name as a base for composition, painting the letterforms of “Josh Smith” onto a surface, then adding still more brush marks and moments of color until the letters seem to become forms, painted objects in their own right, rather than signifiers of a particular phonetic arrangement.


In more recent years, Josh has moved away from strictly using letter forms and has incorporated other imagery – of plants, human figures, and animals – into his additive abstraction process. In many cases, the recognizable figure is retained, with abstract elements to enhance the tone of the painting. The heavy, dark tone of Josh’ overall portfolio reminds me of work by Patrick Bjorsrud.

A monotype print of a painted abstractionUntitled, monotype

Written by: Dallas Jeffs
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