Lisson Gallery

Leon Polk Smith painting features in Heard Museum exhibition exploring the work of ceramicist Maria Martinez

12 January 2024

From 24 February 2024, painting by Leon Polk Smith will feature in the Heard Museum's 'Maria & Modernism' – an exhibition seeking to reconcile the oversight of San Ildefonso Pueblo ceramicist Maria Martinez in American art history. Becoming one of the most widely celebrated artists of her time, whose work continues to influence new generations of artists, Martinez has been conspicuously excluded from the discourse on American Modernism.

The hallmark of Martinez’s career was discovery and innovation. In partnership with her husband Julian, Maria not only reinvented, reinvigorated, and disrupted Pueblo pottery-making, but boldly transformed the art form – a tenet of American Modernism. Despite her artistic contributions and the decades of scholarship focused on her more than seven decades-long career, Maria has yet to be recognized as a prominent American Modernist. 'Maria & Modernism' will present examples of her pottery that substantiate the aesthetic and conceptual affinities of her work with major artistic and creative movements of her time, including decorative and industrial design, and examine her ongoing influence on 21st-century artists.

The exhibition will inculde the 1950 paint on canvas work Black-Black by Leon Polk Smith, . The works Smith produced in the 1940s and 1950s reference his vast array of influences, from investigations of the likes of the De Stijl painters and Piet Mondrian, as well as his own experiences of the flatness of the Midwestern plains and the bright colors of Native crafts from his home state of Oklahoma. Black-Black and other works of this period set the stage for Smith's legacy in his shaped canvases and hard-edge, geometric compositions.

'Leon Polk Smith: 1940–1961' runs from 11 January to 17 February 2024 at Lisson Gallery New York.

Image: Leon Polk Smith, Black-Black, 1950, Paint on canvas, 126.7 x 83.2 cm, 49 7/8 x 32 3/4 in © Leon Polk Smith Foundation

Leon Polk Smith painting features in Heard Museum exhibition exploring the work of ceramicist Maria Martinez
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