Alexis Smith (artist)

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Alexis Smith
Patti Anne Smith
EducationBA, University of California at Irvine (1970)
Known forCollage and installation
AwardsHonorary Doctorate, 2001, Otis College of Art and Design[1]
Hell on Wheels by Alexis Smith, 1985, mixed-media, Honolulu Museum of Arts

Alexis Smith (born Patti Anne Smith in Los Angeles, 1949) is an American artist. She has worked in collage and installation.[2]


Smith's father was a psychiatrist and she spent her childhood years living first on a citrus grove in Covina, California and then on the grounds of a mental hospital. "It was just off enough to be affecting," she later stated, "it had that edge of nonreality, of literal craziness".[3]

As a girl Smith created collages by cutting up and combining words and images.[3] It was only later that friends encouraged her to take art classes. She studied with Vija Celmins and Robert Irwin at UC Irvine,[2] receiving her B.A. in 1970.[4] In college, she impulsively changed her name to Alexis Smith, the name of the Hollywood actress of the 1940s and 1950s, and who won a Tony award in the 1970s.[2][5]

She is married to artist Scott Grieger.[6]

Artistic Style[edit]

Since the 1970s, Smith has produced collages, artist's books, and gallery installations that combine found objects, images, and texts.[7] Her collages from the early and mid-1980s focus on entertainment and leisure, while those made from the mid-90s to the early 2000s focus on fashion and commerce.[8]

She has drawn elements for her collages from pop culture, movies, romance novels, magazines, and advertising,[9] as well as the fiction and nonfiction works of a wide range of writers including Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein, Thomas Mann, and Raymond Chandler.[10] Hollywood stories, the celebrity culture, advertisements, and Hollywood memorabilia figure frequently in her work, in part due to her upbringing in Los Angeles.[11] To Smith Hollywood is a place fraught with symbols and redolent with possibility, which engenders a different concept of art than that on the East Coast[3][12]

Smith finds objects for her work on the street, at garage sales, thrift stores, and swap meets, and via gifts and chance encounters.[12] On her approach to collage, Smith has stated, "there’s a kind of symbiosis to it—the things, the words, the background, and the objects. It's fused into a whole where they seem like they’ve always been together, or were meant to be together. The people that look at them put them together in their heads".[12]

Smith also creates gallery installations, which have been described as addressing the glut of imagery that characterizes contemporary life.[9] Large-scale public works include Snake Path (1992), a 560-foot-long inlaid slate path for the Stuart Collection at UC San Diego, terrazzo floors for the Los Angeles Convention Center and the Schottenstein Sports Arena at Ohio State University,[13] and a multimedia collage installation "Taste" in the Restaurant at the Getty Center.[14]

Smith's art can be seen as part of the tradition of California assemblage.[3] Her work has also been compared to that of Barbara Kruger for its use of language, and to Joseph Cornell and Betye Saar for its combinatory aesthetic.[11]

Smith's work is characterized by humor, irony, poignancy, and a deliberately open-ended message.[3] Her Hell on Wheels from 1985, in the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art, demonstrates her approach to assemblage as well as her humorous and ironic titles.


Smith's work has been exhibited at major museums including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Walker Art Center, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.[15]

She has collaborated with Poet Amy Gerstler on several installations, including "Past Lives" at the Santa Monica Museum of Art.[16]


Smith's works are in the permanent collections of numerous arts institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Getty Research Institute, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.[11]


  1. ^ "Otis College of Art and Design Commencement Speakers and/or Honorary Degrees" (PDF). Otis College of Art and Design.
  2. ^ a b c Watters, Sam. "Alexis Smith, collage artist uprooted". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e Grynsztejn, Madeleine (n.d.). "Alexis Smith". Journal of Contemporary Art. Retrieved 21 June 2014.
  4. ^ "Alexis Smith C.V." Craig Krull Gallery. Retrieved 21 June 2014.
  5. ^ Grynsztejn, Madeleine. "Alexis Smith (interview)". Journal of Contemporary Art. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  6. ^ WATTERS, SAM. "Alexis Smith, collage artist uprooted". HOME & GARDEN Section. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Alexis Smith". UC San Diego, Stuart Collection. UC San Diego. Retrieved 21 June 2014.
  8. ^ Rapko, John (May 2002). "Review: Alexis Smith at Modernism". Artweek: 14–15.
  9. ^ a b Knight, Christopher (1 April 1992). "A Collage Education: MOCA Survey Traces Development of Alexis Smith's Career". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 June 2014.
  10. ^ "Revealing Art With Alexis Smith in the Studio". MOCAtv. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  11. ^ a b c "Alexis Smith". Artspace Marketplace, Inc. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  12. ^ a b c Greenberger, Alex (26 June 2013). "Q&A: Appropriation Artist Alexis Smith on Exposing Ironies in Pop Culture". Artspace. Retrieved 21 June 2014.
  13. ^ "Artists: Alexis Smith". The Stuart Collection at UC San Diego. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  14. ^ Vogel, Carol (26 December 1997). "Inside Art: More Modernity for the Getty?". New York Times. Retrieved 21 June 2014.
  15. ^ "Artists in Residence: Alexis Smith". Pasadena City College. Archived from the original on 2014-12-28. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  16. ^ "Amy Gerstler and Alexis Smith: Past Lives". Santa Monica Museum of Art. Retrieved 21 June 2014.