“GPS. B 1983 MA. NYC.” If you want to know about Greg Parma Smith, that’s all your going to get from the “CV” section of his website. An 80’s child born in Massachusetts, the rest is New York City. The rest is wide open. It seems if you want to know what has happened between the gaps of those few lines, your best bet is to cozy up to Smith’s body of work. And you best be paying attention.
In respect to Smith’s choice to leave out his personal story (whether it’s an intentional choice to offer only the barest of details or a possible oversight webpage design-wise), one must look to his paintings to flesh out his perspective. His is one we can relate to, but not for the reasons you might expect.
Upon first blush, Smith’s pictures are not particularly impressive — the work of a talented graphic artist who knows his way around a mouse as one who can generate a bright computer-generated image. You know the ones: they’re over-colored with exactly straight lines or precisely rounded, even edges, with no hint of actual reality. It’s cartoony and overstated, and the whole thing betrays technical fabrication. It’s all just too perfect.
But with art, and most things in life worth pursuing, you have to do your homework. You have to pay attention. And when dealing with Smith, you have to do you research – and that research means observing and noting the fact that none of his work has been done with a digital illustrator. With this new information, Smith’s images take on a whole new meaning and perspective — his paintings garner a brand new appreciation. His precise, perfect, and vibrant pictures are oil paintings on canvas, just like those of his artistic forebears but captured in an ultra-modern way.
Our senses, having been deadened to true painterly skill in a digital age, must readjust to a new type of Modernity. Where the first “modern artists” shocked the Salon when they sought to paint the real life around them as they experienced it (as opposed settling for the regurgitation of mythic scenes and historical highlights), Smith, too, has charted fresh territory for what could be considered the “New” Modern. He paints his current subject matter as the early modernists did as well, but by painting in a computerized and graphical way , the idea of “current subject matter” is re-imagined for today’s iPOD, iPAD and thanks to Smith, iPAINT generation.
© W. Laurie Ewer