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Michael Bell-Smith

New York Times review of Michael Bell-Smith's show at Foxy Production, 617 West 27th Street (Chelsea), New York, NY, up through June 3:
Michael Bell-Smith operates in the gap between animated cartoons and painting with unusual effectiveness. His short digital loops, shown on small screens or paintinglike wall monitors, portray landscapes, cityscapes, figures and oblique social commentary. But their main concerns are color, space and light, tweaked and amplified by digital technology and restrained animation. Whether we are flying high above an endless suburbia, as in "Some Houses Have Pools," or looking at the artist as he stands in the middle of a Midtown street, as in "Self-Portrait NYC," the excitement lies in grasping the layers of the image and the way they do, or don't, change.

In the post-Katrina "Continue 2000," a red-caped hero stares at the setting sun from the roof of a house adrift in a flood of shimmering, patchwork color. He is going nowhere, but the sun explodes and the world turns momentarily gray, like an omen.

"Up and Away" scrolls through an encyclopedic array of panoramic horizons city skylines, deserts, mountains, castles, forests, oceans that conjure up dozens of movie genres but are actually downloaded from video games (and are so coarsely pixilated they seem Pointillist, or knitted). Now it is the viewer who goes nowhere: space is deep but never penetrated. It's like watching a deck of cards being shuffled: pick a landscape, any landscape. Mr. Bell-Smith brings new and old and static and mobile into a promising, visually enthralling alignment. ROBERTA SMITH
This is a nice review but treats the gallery as a walled garden sealed off from the Internet and the street. If anyone's work could benefit from a "digital non-site" analysis it's Bell-Smith's. How much does the imagery and animation derive from gaming, website GIF wallpaper, ringtones, and upload/download culture in general and how much is invented out of whole cloth by the artist? What is the value of putting "gallery brackets" around pop culture ephemera? Is this still Pop Art? Is it relevant to mention Bell-Smith's CD of acapella hiphop hits digitally synchronized with ringtones of the same songs? That he plays in a band? Or the fact that he was recently on a panel called Net Aesthetics 2.0, that considered a gradual tectonic shift in Internet art practice? That he has a blog and is an ardent curator of Internet cult phenomena of every description, with exquisite taste in same? "The gallery" and the "art review" are still excellent places to discuss these kinds of things--particularly how they can be translated into an elegant physical space. It would be good if our top gun critics could stretch just a wee bit.

- tom moody 5-24-2006 6:43 am [link]