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Leon Polk Smith: Big Form, Big Space


Contemporary Art Gallery / Vancouver / Art

The American artist Leon Polk Smith was born in 1906, outside Chickasha, a region today known as Oklahoma. His parents were of mixed Cherokee and settler heritage, and Smith was raised by the Choctaw and Chickasaw communities. When he turned 30, Smith moved far from his home to New York City, where he embraced Eurocentric ideals, especially the geometric abstractions of Piet Mondrian. He became known for simple shapes executed in crisp, bold colors. But in the 1950s, Smith began to bring his Native American past as well as his identity as a gay man into his minimalist work. Canada’s first solo show on Smith, who died in 1996, presents 40 paintings from this formative period. —E.C.

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