Gallerist at Home: David B. Smith

Denver’s burgeoning contemporary art scene is anchored by such galleries as David B. Smith Gallery. Representing artists like Laura Ball (NAP #61, #97), Hong Seon Jang, and Cole Sternberg, the gallery is at once contemporary and relevant—and growing with the times.

1. Smith at gallery
David Smith (center, in tie) at opening reception for Hong Seon Jang, Labyrinth, at David B. Smith Gallery, Denver, May 2012. Time-lapse photograph courtesy of Paul Winner.

In his home, as with most other “gallerists at home,” Smith’s passion and enthusiasm for the artists he represents professionally is clear. Pairing paintings with photography and sculpture, he has created a warm and inviting space that reflects his humor and personality as well. - Ellen C. Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor

2 Laura Ball
Laura Ball | Carnivore Mandala, 2011, watercolor and graphite on paper, 20 x 16 in. 

Ellen Caldwell: Tell me about the most recent piece you brought into your home collection.

David B. Smith: Carnivore Mandala is the most recent addition to my collection. I acquired it from Laura’s exhibition at the gallery, Minotaur, which just ended in mid-January.

Laura is currently receiving a great deal of interest and attention, and it is a very exciting time in her career. We are currently working with an important museum that is in the process of acquiring works from the show for their collection. Facilitating these types of opportunities are such a rewarding part of this business, and it is always exciting to celebrate important milestones with artists and the collectors who admire and help foster the artist’s vision over time.

3 Laura Ball_Kim Keever
Ball and Keever works paired together in Smith’s home.

EC: That is really great!  I love the photograph you have paired next to Ball’s painting as well.  It is so lush and rich.  Could you tell me a little bit about this piece?

DBS: Kim Keever's large-scale photographs are created by the artist meticulously constructing miniature topographies in a 200-gallon tank, which he then submerges in water. Kim brings fictitious environments to life with colored lights and by dispersing layers of pigment, which produces ephemeral atmospheres that he layers and captures with his camera.

4 Kim Keever
Kim Keever |Waterfall 04h, 2010, c-print, 34 x 44 in., edition of 6

DBS (continued): I am drawn to Kim’s imagery, which pushes the genre of landscape art. In addition, in the age of Photoshop, it is intriguing to see an artist produce this type of imagery without digital rendering. Kim creates deceptively simple pictures, and the process and character of his imagery is unique, despite maintaining a beautiful resonance with other photographic and landscape oriented works.

5 Molly Dilworth
Molly Dilworth | Times Square Pour #32/39Times Square Pour #30/39, Times Square Pour #11/39, 2010, reclaimed acrylic paint, 4 x 6 in.

EC: That is amazing that his work is both organic and staged at the same time.  I love that so much of your work has a natural undercurrent to it.  Like Molly Dilworth’s pieces – what’s the story behind those?

DBS: Cool Water, Hot Island (2010-2011) was a project Molly Dilworth completed in New York City as part of a city-commissioned public art project. Essentially a 50,000 square foot painting, the work spanned the surface of Broadway from 47th to 42nd Streets in Times Square.

While Molly was developing the project, she created thirty-nine pour paintings as she explored approaches to depicting the flow of water, as part of the Cool Water, Hot Island, project referenced the changing ecological landscape of Midtown.

For smaller works, these pour paintings have an incredible complexity and vitality; Molly really accomplished a lot as she conceptualized the Cool Water, Hot Island project, so we decided to exhibit a set of these at PULSE New York in 2011. After the fair, I added these three to my collection because I didn’t want to stop looking at them when the fair ended.

6 Shahzia Sikander
(To the right of window) Shahzia Sikander | Untitled, 1997, gouache on tissue paper, 24 x 19 in.
7 Shahzia Sikander DETAIL
Shahzia Sikander | Untitled, DETAIL.

EC: Do you have a favorite piece in your home or a favorite artist you collect?

DBS: One of my favorite artists is Shahzia Sikander, an acclaimed Pakistani-American artist with a beautiful and really interesting practice. I was fortunate enough to be in Sydney during her wonderful solo show there at the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2008, and soon after that exhibition, I acquired this work.

While it does address some more serious themes of gender, sexuality, and oppression, I find this image to be optimistic, with the figure exhibiting an incredible strength. To me, this piece is very empowering. It’s installed in my bedroom nook by my daughter’s crib.

8 Gregory Euclide
Gregory Euclide (NAP #53, #71, #83, #101) | Untitled, 2011, acrylic, geranium, mylar, paper, pencil, 23 x 29 x 3 in.

EC:  And do you have any pieces that you commissioned, that resonate with you on a more personal level?

DBS: Justin Vernon (from the musical group Bon Iver) actually commissioned this work to appear on the album covers for a few of their absolutely incredible record releases in 2011 and 2012, and this work is sentimental to me on so many levels. Gregory started the work immediately after returning home to Minnesota following a project in Denver, and we had discussed his ideas for the commission extensively before he left town. What I love about this work is the effortless melding of the 3D and more painterly elements, as well as the blue-green color palette. Plus, one of the landscapes vignettes references the foothills of the Front Range of the Rockies (the view I see driving to work).

9 Landscape Wolf
Landscape wolf at Smith’s home.

EC: Finally, I can tell from your home collection that you focus on showcasing pieces that have both a warm feel and personal history or tie to you and your family.  How does this process of collecting and showing differ for between your home and gallery – or does it?

DBS: Aside from chasing my kids around, my passions include art, the outdoors, and music. So naturally, I have works in my home that reflect these interests. I am a music junkie and I play the guitar and the pedal steel. And I guess I’m what you would call a closet deadhead. Years ago I helped one of the great psychedelic San Francisco artists (Randy Tuten) sell some of his work, and somewhere in the process I ended up acquiring the original album cover that he had created for the Grateful Dead. I don’t actively pursue collecting album artwork, but when that opportunity came along I jumped, and I absolutely love having that one in my collection.

Most of the work in my home is from artists that I represent or have exhibited in the past because the program at the gallery strongly represents the artists whose visions I greatly admire and whose work I emotionally respond to.

Otherwise, my home is filled with plants as well as souvenir objects and folk art from trips that my wife and I have taken. We love having these material reminders of places we have been together and separately; it’s a fun way to revisit a place or a memory–and an avenue to acquiring a little kitsch, such as the clay-wolf-landscape on my kitchen counter, is one of my favorites…

10 gallery facade
David B. Smith gallery façade, Denver.


Upcoming exhibitions at David B. Smith Gallery include: Cole Sternberg (February 22 through March 23), Paul Jacobsen (March 28 through April 27), and Michael Theodore (May 11 through June 7.)

Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, writer, and editor.

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