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When you look at Rodney Smith‘s photographs you may think of René Magritte, the Belgian Surrealist artist known for his visual puns and, generally speaking, thought-provoking, “conceptual” images. Surrealist art, in general, combines the best of both worlds: a “realistic” representation of objects, which requires talent and technical skill, and a fantastic imagination that takes us past the threshold of the rational and the knowable, so we can explore the mysteries of the subconscious.
Surrealism offers an escape from the real world yet also probes the depths of a perhaps truer and deeper reality: the reality of human desire; of our dreams and nightmares; of our hopes and fears; of our collective past and a visionary future we can barely imagine. Surrealism can also be playful: at least in the hands of an artist like Miró as well as in Magritte‘s linguistic imagination, whose paintings are filled with visual puns and paradoxes.
Rodney Smith’s education and professional route is somewhat unusual for an artist. He earned a Master of Divinity in Theology in 1973 from Yale University, where he also studied photography with Walker Evans and developed a love for this field. Far from being stuck in the Ivory Tower, however, his highly successful photography has been commissioned by mainstream businesses such as American Express, I.B.M., Merril Lynch, the New York Stock Exchange and VISA (among many others).
To call Rodney Smith’s Surrealism “eclectic,” as I do in the title of this introduction, may seem somewhat redundant. After all, Surrealist art is usually eclectic. Yet Rodney Smith adds so much Romantic flavor to many of his images–as well as playing with optical illusions, surprises and visual puns–that “eclectic” is the best term I found to describe his art.
In fact, this is a term Rodney Smith uses to describe himself. Although art isn’t exactly autobiographical, I think that, in this case, there’s no better introduction to Rodney Smith’s quirky and eclectic Surrealist photography–which is filled with personality–than reading the witty and revealing description the artist provides about himself and his art on his website:
Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com