Leon Polk Smith

Heard Museum explores an icon of mid-century modern art

The Heard Museum announces a new original exhibition, Leon Polk Smith: Hiding in Plain Sight, opening on Feb. 4. Leon Polk Smith, one of the great American artists of the 20th century, has been studied and celebrated through major exhibitions, publications and scholarship over many years–and yet, a significant source of inspiration and influence on his artistic production remains largely unexplored.

Leon Polk Smith in his studio at Union Square, New York
PHOTO COURTESY LEON POLK SMITH FOUNDATION

Leon Polk Smith: Hiding in Plain Sight takes visitors on the journey of how a young Smith, influenced by American Indian culture in his native Oklahoma, became one of America’s most accomplished painters and a founding icon of midcentury modern art and design.

Smith was a renowned modernist painter and one of the founders of the Hard-edge Painting Movement, an art form of the late 1950s and 1960s that emphasized geometric forms in bright colors.

The exhibition will illustrate how Smith’s paintings connect with the colors and patterns of Southern Plains beadwork, ribbon work and painted hides.

In the words of Smith, “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.”

“Indian Territory was a place of creativity, lawlessness and invention. Leon Polk Smith has rewritten the narrative of place in the endless horizons, single lines and hard edges of his work,” says Joe Baker, guest curator of Leon Polk Smith: Hiding in Plain Sight.


Leon Polk Smith: Hiding in Plain Sight

Through May 31

Heard Museum, 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit heard.org.

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