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It’s no mistake that Lenard Smith’s new book borrows its title from Susan Sontag’s 1977 essay of the same name. Melancholy Objects – the Los Angeles-based artist’s first publication for Perimeter Editions – grounds the photographic endeavour in the surreal, the introspective, and the referential. Working in the tradition of the ragpicker, Smith sifts through personal and found objects to create formal compositions that gently intersect sculpture with the still life, broaching new purposes and hierarchies, and pulsing with a sense of humour, play, and solemnity.
Smith’s broader career has taken a similarly unconventional footing. While his photographic work has skirted elements of documentary, landscape, still life, portraiture, and editorial, it has never quite fallen for their traps. His studio practice – which also spans sculpture, painting, sound, film, and bookmaking – further informs his photographic output. His Melancholy Objects feel like a perfect confluence for these strands.
With the trace of the artist’s hand ever present, these images of balancing, totemic postures and surreal design configurations ignite memories that confront both the familiar and the unknown. Analog references emerge, only to collapse into new compositions and perspectives. Unlikely materials and choreographies elicit a furrow or a smirk. While history and function inspire each photograph, it is the imagination that subverts and ungrounds them. In the spirit of Dadaism, we’re left happily adrift in their presence.
Lenard Smith (b. 1975) is a first-generation Ghanaian-American interdisciplinary artist. He lives and works in Los Angeles, California. For more than fifteen years, Smith has developed a signature language in both assemblage sculpture and still life photography. His influences derive from pedagogical readings, architecture, and design. He has exhibited his work throughout the United States and abroad, published six artist books, and has most recently contributed photography to The New York Times and The Atlantic magazine. Smith received his MFA in Advanced Photographic Studies from Bard College, a degree which grounds his work in traditional practices and experimental methodologies. He has undertaken artist residencies at Light Work (Syracuse, NY) and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (Omaha, NE).\
110 pp, perfect bind, softcover with dust jacket Published by Perimeter Editions, 2022 21 x 12.5 cm First Edition of 500