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The story of Mary Tillman Smith is that of a poor child from Mississippi who, in the twilight of her life, began work that was admired very early on by Basquiat, and that now features in the collections of the most prestigious museums, including the Metropolitan Museum (New York), the National Gallery of Art (Washington), the High Museum of American Art (Atlanta), the Smithsonian Museum (Washington), and the Musée National d’Art Moderne (Paris).

Mary, born in 1904 into a family of sharecroppers in Martinville, Mississippi, suffered from a hearing impairment which, by isolating her very early, developed in her a creative rage coupled with an unparalleled capacity for resistance. Condemned to work in the fields from a very early age, this child was already drawing strange pictures in the earth accompanied by sibylline texts. But it was not until the twilight of her life that she began to give shape to her personal cosmology by painting on metal sheets and wooden panels placed on and around her modest bungalow. By establishing this particular relationship with the world, by calling out to passers-by in this way, she invented a kind of graphic blues in which art becomes the intercessor par excellence of forces beyond her control.

For, at the same time as recovering her own dignity, she rids art of conventional stances and makes it a manifesto: a manifesto that is violently positive and, despite some religious themes, even subversive. This “solar aesthetic”, as Daniel Soutif calls it, provokes a form of primal oscillation between the human and the divine that takes us back to the deep roots of creation.

Mary T. Smith, who died in 1995, left behind several hundred paintings of exceptional elemental power, which have earned her recognition today as one of the leading figures in American art brut.

Mary T. Smith - © christian berst — art brut
Mary T. Smith - © christian berst — art brut
Mary T. Smith - © christian berst — art brut
Mary T. Smith - © christian berst — art brut
Mary T. Smith - © christian berst — art brut
Mary T. Smith - © christian berst — art brut
Mary T. Smith - © christian berst — art brut
Mary T. Smith - © christian berst — art brut
Artworks
Please contact us to inquire about the available works.
Mary T. Smith untitled, 1987
23.62 x 31.89 in
Mary T. Smith untitled, 1987
23.62 x 32.28 in
Mary T. Smith untitled, 1985
24.02 x 23.62 in
Mary T. Smith untitled, 1985
14.57 x 9.84 in
Mary T. Smith untitled (Jesus), 1989
25.98 x 59.06 in
Mary T. Smith untitled, 1980
18.9 x 12.99 in
Artist
Mary T. Smith
mary t smith - © christian berst — art brut

A poor child of Mississippi condemned to the hardest work, this African-American woman began, in the evening of her life, a work that resembles a real graphic blues. Mary T Smith gave shape to her personal cosmology by painting on sheets of corrugated iron and wooden panels arranged around her house. Her “solar aesthetic” - says Daniel Soutif - and her powerfully elementary modes of representation made a strong impression on Basquiat. Now considered an emblematic figure of American art brut, her works have been added to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Smithsonian Museum of American Art (Washington) and the High Museum of Art (Atlanta).

Catalog
Mary T. Smith Mississippi shouting #2
mary t. smith : mississippi shouting #2 - © christian berst — art brut

Texts : William S. Arnett & Daniel Soutif
Foreword : Christian Berst
Catalog published to mark the exhibition mary t. smith : mississippi shouting #2, from October, 14 to November 21, 2021

Press review
Mississippi Shouting #2
Damien Aubel, Transfuge. October 30, 2021.
Christian Berst Art Brut : Mary T. Smith
Anne Kerner, Paris Capitale. October 28, 2021.
Mary T. Smith, It’s all right !
Philippe Godin , La Diagonale De L’art. October 15, 2021.
Videos
Mary T. Smith : mississippi shouting #2 par Christian Berst
mary t. smith : mississippi shouting #2
Mary T. Smith

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