Lenard Smith – Melancholy Objects
It’s no mistake that Lenard Smith’s new book borrows its title from Susan Sontag’s 1977 essay of the same name. Melancholy Objects – the Los Angeles-based artist’s first publication for Perimeter Editions – grounds the photographic endeavour in the surreal, the introspective, and the referential. Working in the tradition of the ragpicker, Smith sifts through personal and found objects to create formal compositions that gently intersect sculpture with the still life, broaching new purposes and hierarchies, and pulsing with a sense of humour, play, and solemnity.
Smith’s broader career has taken a similarly unconventional footing. While his photographic work has skirted elements of documentary, landscape, still life, portraiture, and editorial, it has never quite fallen for their traps. His studio practice – which also spans sculpture, painting, sound, film, and bookmaking – further informs his photographic output. His Melancholy Objects feel like a perfect confluence for these strands.
With the trace of the artist’s hand ever present, these images of balancing, totemic postures and surreal design configurations ignite memories that confront both the familiar and the unknown. Analog references emerge, only to collapse into new compositions and perspectives. Unlikely materials and choreographies elicit a furrow or a smirk. While history and function inspire each photograph, it is the imagination that subverts and ungrounds them. In the spirit of Dadaism, we’re left happily adrift in their presence.