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Splats: Playing with Positive and Negative Space

Cary Smith's Shape #1, at left, and Peter Halley's Colortron on view at Sheldon in the 2017 exhibition nonObjectives.

Connecticut-based artist Cary Smith uses meticulously crafted abstraction to express his myriad influences, which range from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century aesthetics to mid-century art and design.

During the 1980s, Smith became known for grid paintings that were inspired by his collection of Colonial-era game boards. His current practice is not restricted to the study of hard-edged, geometry. He also utilizes biomorphic imagery in bodies of work he calls Splats; here, the artist composes surrealist-influenced, radiating forms that play with the relationship between positive and negative space.

While works like the Splats hint at recognizable imagery, Smith has noted: “For a good while now I’ve wanted to make nonrepresentational paintings that suggest a narrative while remaining essentially abstract. I try not to think of references; they get in the way for me. When I start to see something or think of something particular, I will veer away….”

Cary Smith
born Ponce, Puerto Rico 1955
Shape #1
Oil on linen, 2016
55 × 55 inches
Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Robert E. Schweser and Fern Beardsley Schweser Acquisition Fund through the University of Nebraska Foundation, Mercedes A. Augustine Acquisition Trust, and Grace A. Ames Memorial Fund through the University of Nebraska Foundation, U-6558.2.2016