John Holt Smith Curvature and Flow
John Holt Smith

About John Holt Smith

The paintings of John Holt Smith paintings are studies in ultimate abstraction, reducing figurative images to their most elemental state. He begins by pinpointing and enlarging one cross-section of a photograph. A photo-editing program allows him to manipulate and stretch the selection into uniform striations, exposing its unique color signature. He then mirrors that color sequence with paint, painstakingly applying thousands of layers and lines onto an iridescent aluminum panel.

For this exhibition, Smith departed from his usual broad landscapes and chose more focused imagery to inform the finished pieces. The linear Sequence pieces began with photographs of brightly colored poppies-an appropriate choice for creating seductive and alluring color signatures. The show includes new sub-series as well, which Smith refers to as the Oculus paintings. These stem from photographs of human eyes and take the abstract sequencing process even further: the artist has folded the vertical striations into concentric circles. While the end product resembles an eye in shape, the artist has removed all recognizable identifiers. It is “at once familiar and yet unknown.”

John Holt Smith’s ultra-methodical approach blends traditional and contemporary, organic and industrial, artistic and scientific processes. Always seeking ways to commingle figurative painting with progressive abstraction and photography, he discovered the visual bridge of color sequencing after learning about spectroscopy-a process that captures light from an object in space and uses that light to analyze its composition, position, and rate of movement. He remarks: “I always thought that was a beautiful idea: that one could look at an object’s color to make such determinations. I wondered what we would be able to determine about a more familiar subject, a place or a person we loved, even their eye, merely by an examination of the sequence of its light.”

Smith achieves a multi-dimensional luminosity, at once the embodiment of traditional and contemporary aesthetics. The intricately layered lines shimmer and vibrate on their cool, flat support, creating palpable rhythm and depth throughout. The colors absorb and reflect light to produce a subtle glow that emanates from within, revealing the aesthetic and spiritual essence of both the structural components and the system they create.

A Fort Worth native, John Holt Smith has exhibited work throughout Texas and the United States, including solo and group shows in Fort Worth, Dallas, New York, and California. His work has been featured in many publications as well, including Texas Monthly, Homestyle Magazine, Fort Worth Texas Magazine, Inky-Blue Magazine, Dallas Morning News, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2006, his work appeared on the cover of the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book. Public works include large-scale commissions for the Joule Hotel in Dallas, Midwestern University in Wichita Falls, Terminal D at the DFW International Airport, and Fort Worth’s Gideon Toal building.

Smith received a B.F.A. from the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he concurrently worked with artist Ann Hamilton on many exhibitions, including those at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. and the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. During college, he received the William Dole Scholarship and a Presidents Undergraduate Fellowship, and also spent a year in Florence, Italy, studying art and art history.