Smith's influential use of shaped canvases sometimes physically extended into space and initially referred to devices used in advertising to promote products and to overpower and entice the spectator. Gradually such direct references were minimised in favour of the largely self-contained abstract qualities of shape, support, colour and surface. Repetition suggests some response to Minimalism, although he resisted the call to new materials, comparing his cutting and folding of canvas to large-scale origami, and often using sequential changes to suggest the passage of time, as in a diary or calendar.
Bulky constructions such as these were followed from 1972 by paintings using components of tent manufacture (aluminium tubes, canvas and string), their structures often resembling kites. These paintings focused on the physical constitution of painting as a stretched and suspended surface, playing with relationships of colour and shape, drawing and structure. After resettling in New York in 1976, Smith's ‘kites' evolved into larger-scale architectural decoration, often in response to commissions.
Richard Smith: Paintings, 1958–1966 (exh. cat. by B. Robertson, London, Whitechapel A.G., 1966)
Richard Smith: Seven Exhibitions, 1961–75 (exh. cat. by B. Rose, London, Tate, 1975)
R. Smith: ‘Painting Prints, Printing Paintings', Prt Colr Newslett. (Jan–Feb 1976), pp. 156–7
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