Zak Smith

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Zak Smith
Zak Smith.jpg
Zak Smith in 2005
Born (1976-07-16) July 16, 1976 (age 42)
Syracuse, New York, U.S.
EducationCooper Union, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Yale University
Known forPainting

Zak Smith (born July 16, 1976), also known as Zak Sabbath, is an American artist and adult film performer.

Early life and education[edit]

Smith was born in Syracuse, New York 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 in Skowhegan, Maine and went on to receive an MFA from Yale University in 2001.

Smith's father is Jewish.[1]



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.[2] 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.[2]

Recently, Smith has begun donating sizeable portions of the profits from the sale of his work to activist causes such as Food Not Bombs and the West Memphis 3.[3]

Other public collections containing Smith's work include the Museum of Modern Art[4] and the Progressive Corporation. Zak Smith is represented by Fredericks & Freiser Gallery in New York City.


Smith has published several 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 the tabletop fantasy role-playing game Lamentations of the Flame Princess, which was published to critical acclaim, including a 2012 Indiecade independent game design award in, surprisingly for a book, the Technology category, due to its unusual design.[5] He has since followed this with additional RPG works, including A Red and Pleasant Land, winner in 2015 of two gold and two silver ENnies, and Maze of the Blue Medusa, winner in 2016 of one gold and two silver ENnies.


In February 2006, Smith made his pornographic debut, under the pseudonym Zak Sabbath, in the VCA Pictures film Barbed Wire Kiss[6], 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,[7] 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.

Other works[edit]

From March to November 2010, Smith directed and co-starred in I Hit It With My Axe, a weekly Dungeons & Dragons video series hosted on The Escapist website along with other adult performers including Kimberly Kane, Satine Phoenix, Sasha Grey, Justine Joli, and Stoya. [8]

Personal life[edit]

Smith lived and worked in Brooklyn, New York until October 2007, when he moved to Los Angeles. He has previously dated Varrick Robinson[9] was formerly in a long-term relationship with adult industry performer Mandy Morbid.[10] Smith is an anarchist.[11][12]


  • Zak Smith: Pictures of Girls (New York, NY: Distributed Art Publishers, 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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Molossus (August 25, 2009). "Screw Narrative: Zak Smith on the Art of Porn". Retrieved January 5, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Zak Smith on the Fredericks & Freiser Gallery web site
  3. ^ Zak Smith on the Kavi Gupta Gallery web site
  4. ^ "The Collection | Zak Smith (American, born 1976)". MoMA. Retrieved 2014-03-27.
  5. ^ Nelson, Noah J. (October 5, 2012). "IndieCade's Red Carpet Awards: Full of Surprises". Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  6. ^ Official Barbed Wire Kiss movie website
  7. ^ Zak Smith on Fleshbot
  8. ^ I Hit It With My Axe: Episode One: Meet the Party Access date: August 2, 2010
  9. ^ "Out with Mary". 2015. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  10. ^ Kimberly Kane (October 16, 2012). "Zak Loves Mandy". VICE. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
  11. ^ Emilie Trice (October 15, 2007). "Anarchy in the U.K." Retrieved January 5, 2015. This month, the 31-year-old artist, anarchist and porn star has a solo show at Fred in London.
  12. ^ Zing Tsjeng (July 28, 2014). "Stoya selects Zak Smith". Dazed Digital. Retrieved January 5, 2015. The self-described anarchist landed his monumental page-for-page artistic interpretation of Gravity's Rainbow in the Whitney Biennal at 28, then landed his first adult film role in Barbed Wire Kiss.

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