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I Dream Too Much: Leslie Smith III

June 8, 2013 – September 1, 2013

installation view of "I Dream Too Much: Leslie Smith III" with paintings hanging on the walls


I Dream Too Much: Paintings by Leslie Smith III presents a focused selection of the artist’s work, including his newest abstractions on shaped canvases. Smith draws inspiration from the world around him, making allusions to contemporary cultural issues while also engaging the rich history of his medium. Works in this exhibition, the artist’s first solo museum show, straddle the line between identifiable subject matter and a curious state of dreamy unreality.

Tension, both narrative and formal, is central to Smith’s work, where threads of discord emerge from simplified shapes. Tree branches, cubed structures, gauzy curtains, and rounded masses are reoccurring symbols that take on figurative or architectural qualities; twisted, flattened, or floating in space, they exist in an uneasy relationship to each other and the canvas surface. With traces of recognizable imagery and titles that hint at contemporary subjects–from fraught sexual dynamics to the contradictions of organized religion–the paintings tempt viewers to conjure meaning from fragmentary references.

If their imagery suggestsIf their imagery suggests the poetics of human conflict, Smith’s paintings are also self-reflective. They address, and even embody, the traditional binaries within the medium of painting: expressive brushwork versus formal purity, representation as opposed to abstraction, and radiant colors in contrast to red or black monochrome. The physicality of the pigment creates layers, overlap, and dimensionality, despite an overall absence of illusory volume. These visual dualities function to reinforce the works’ subtle narratives of human discord. Thus, ideas in paint reflect ideas about paint, resulting in works that are intrinsically tied to their existence as paintings.

installation view of "I Dream Too Much: Leslie Smith III" with paintings hanging on the walls

Exhibition Support

Generous funding for I Dream Too Much: Paintings by Leslie Smith lll and the accompanying exhibition catalog has been provided by Dan and Natalie Erdman; Quarles & Brady LLP; the Exhibition Initiative Fund; Dane Arts with additional funds from The Evjue Foundation, Inc., the charitable arm of The Capital Times; a competitive grant from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School with funding provided by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) with income generated by patents filed through WARF by UW-Madison faculty and staff; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts; and MMoCA Volunteers.