Syracuse, New York, U.S.
|Nationality||American (United States)|
|Training||Cooper Union, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Yale University|
Zak Smith, also known as Zak Sabbath, is an American artist and alternative porn star. He was born in Syracuse, New York in 1976, and grew up in Washington, D.C. After receiving a BFA from Cooper Union in 1998, he studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and went on to receive an MFA from Yale University in 2001. He lived and worked in Brooklyn until October, 2007, when he moved to Los Angeles.
Smith's body of work primarily comprises portraits, drawings, and abstract art executed in acrylic and ink. An enduring interest in comic books informs the artist's dynamic and obsessively detailed depictions of the people, objects, and stories that inhabit his world. Allied with punk and hardcore culture and the DIY aesthetic associated with these movements, Smith draws on traditions of decorative art to produce visually complex, labor-intensive pictures characterized by intricate patterns and vivid coloration. These include repeated shapes (such as squares and lines) that are compressed to form 3D hints that form the picture. Zak also contrasts colours in his work, often using black and white with clear differentation within the scene.
Smith is best known for his portraits of female subjects - with an emphasis on eroticism as well as the mundane aspects of his subjects' lives - and his page-by-page illustrations for Gravity's Rainbow. The latter were featured in the 2004 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art and are now in the collection of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
Smith has published three books. The book Zak Smith: Pictures of Girls (Distributed Art Publishers, 2005) includes selected plates from the series' Girls in the Naked Girl Business, 100 Girls and 100 Octopuses, and One Picture for Each Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow, in addition to stand-alone pieces from the period 2000-2005. In 2006, Tin House Books released a book of the entire set of Gravity's Rainbow images alone, with an introduction by author Steve Erickson. We Did Porn: Memoir and Drawings (Tin House Books, 2009)--Smith's first work to include writing—focuses on Smith's experiences working in adult film. The non-fiction text is accompanied by over 100 paintings and drawings created during the same time. Most recently, he is the author of Vornheim: The Complete City Kit, a guide to running games set in cities for Dungeons and Dragons which was published to critical acclaim--including a 2012 Indiecade independent game design award in--somewhat surprisingly for a book--the Technology category, due to its unusual design.
In February 2006, Zak Smith made his pornographic debut, under the pseudonym Zak Sabbath, in the VCA Pictures film Barbed Wire Kiss, by director Benny Profane (whose name is itself taken from the Pynchon novel V.). In the porn blog Fleshbot, Smith mentions working on a project to help fund a film student's NYU thesis project entitled Freaky Kids I & II in 1996, but declares, "Here's where I'm making the BIG money" (although most of the money he makes in porn is actually donated to activist group Food Not Bombs). He followed this up with an appearance opposite Pixie Pearl in Eon McKai's debut film for Vivid Entertainment, Girls Lie, Bullets And Burlesque from Bad Seed Productions, with Sasha Grey, Marie Luv, and Satine Phoenix, and Vivid's Hospital, with Coco Velvet and Mandy Morbid.
Since March 2010 Zak Sabbath has directed I Hit It With My Axe, a weekly video series featured at The Escapist website. Starring himself, Kimberly Kane, Mandy Morbid, Satine Phoenix (all adult film performers) and 'Connie' and 'Frankie', a stripper and hair dresser respectively. Sasha Grey, Justine Joli and Gia Jordan have also featured. The show centers around the group's weekly Dungeons & Dragons game in which Zak is the Dungeon Master and the others are adventurers within a campaign.
- Zak Smith: Pictures of Girls (New York, NY: D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, Inc., 2005) ISBN 978-1-933045-22-1
- Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow (Graphic Representation of a Novel/Illustration). (Portland, Or: Tin House Books, 2006). ISBN 0-9773127-9-8
- We Did Porn: Memoir and Drawings. (Portland, Or: Tin House Books, 2009). ISBN 978-0-9802436-8-0
- Zak Smith on the Fredericks & Freiser Gallery web site
- Zak Smith on the Kavi Gupta Gallery web site
- "The Collection | Zak Smith (American, born 1976)". MoMA. Retrieved 2014-03-27.
-  Access date: 22 October 2012
- Zak Smith on Fleshbot
- I Hit It With My Axe: Episode One: Meet the Party Access date: 02 August 2010
- Zak Smith's website
- Zak Smith's blog
- Fredericks & Freiser gallery
- Zak Smith: Pictures of Girls from D.A.P.
- Official Barbed Wire Kiss movie website
- On the Road of Knives (w/Shawn Cheng and Nicholas Di Genova)
- Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow Tin House Books
- We Did Porn Tin House Books
- Fredericks & Freiser Gallery profile of the artist
Articles and interviews
- The Modern Word
- May 2002 ArtForum review by Martha Schwendener
- 2004 Whitney Biennial catalogue
- Zak Smith's Second Porn, Fleshbot
- Review of the book We did porn, Pornsaints
- Interview about art, Artnet
- Interview on Gravity's Rainbow piece, Quarterly Conversation
- Interview on porn, BMEZine
- Podcast Interview with cIndyCenter.com
- Interview with Adultmaven