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Visual Arts Last Updated: Aug 11th, 2008 - 12:34:15

Pattern and Rhythm
By Esther Editor
Jul 1, 2008, 08:39

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Frank Smith combines vivid paint colors and swatches of fabric to create bright meditations the collective imagination. Because his work is, as he puts it, “totally improvisational,”
the imagination seems
to be the key here.

In more than a dozen
works on display at the
D.C. Historical Society,
Smith creates rhythms,
beat and patterns out of
what would first appear
to be mere abstract
strokes and patches.
“I don’t start with
drawings or sketches,”
he says in a brochure made
available to guests
at the show’s opening
on June 27, “I create

Raised in a family of
musicians, Smith cites
music, specifically jazz,
as an influence on his rhythms.
There is also a distinct
element of practicality that
grounds him in the
African-American experience.
At the opening, he
told me proudly that he
is “a child of the Depression”
who is not predisposed to
waste anything.
He remembers the suits
his mother made for him
and his brother from potato
sacks that were so
well-crafted that people
mistook them for fine linen
creations. He added that
one impetus for
sewing his works was the
steady supply of clothing
his clotheshorse daughter
discarded while in college.
Working in a small studio,
he took those odd pieces
of denim and patterned cloth
and made art out of them.

While the works
were untitled at the show,
many are available to view
online at
Smith’s Web site,
The images of works shown
here are taken from the
site and copyrighted by
photographer Harlee Little.

The D.C. show, "Frank Smith:
40 Years Since the Riots,"
is on view until December 15
at the society, located at
801 K Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001.

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