Young artists are more likely to produce a dry conceptual project than an object or image that discloses their feelings. They are discouraged in school from dwelling on themselves and taught to aspire to the universal so they don't seem self-absorbed, a rap that got hung on them once art became detached from the concerns of the everyday world. Affect is now so alien to the art world when it does slip in it often comes across as bathos.
Mutant baby, 1970s
Bruce Fallon Smith never got the memo. He's an artist, poet and illustrator working in the Sacramento area since the '70s. Like an outsider artist, he has been doing his own thing, which means painting hyper-violent fantasies that reek of family trauma and something like borderline personality disorder. Monsters share the picture plane with monstrous humans. Figures are regularly dismembered. Bodies are twisted and turned inside out so the viewer can literally see what sick stuff is going on inside them. The early works invoke historical german painting, and there is a Hitler portrait. The later works veer more in the direction of pop surrealism. Some of the later paintings bear labels from an invented church. The author has several aliases.There is often a youthful male at the center, either smiling or frozen in a knowing grimace. If Smith were in high school today, there would be a Newtown massacre watch on him day and night.
Adolescent frustration, 1970s
Family portrait, 1970s
Floating Hiteler head, 1970s
Despite his technical gifts and troubled-teen confessional style, there is almost no record of Smith's ever having exhibited in public. Hours of on-line searching turned up references to three illustrations that were used in obscure poetry and fantasy journals in the 90s. In a world where every mediocre artist has their own website, this is very odd.
Now imagine you're at the flea market and you see one of these preposterous creatures on a table. You do a double take. It's painted in a hyper-real style so fine you have to run your finger over the surface to make sure it's not a print. You think you've discovered something. You turn around to look again. Your perspective pulls back like a camera from close-up to wide angle and you see another Bruce Fallon Smith. Then another. Then another. The whole table is covered with these hideously beautiful things. One hundred and sixty seven of them. And you buy them all, marveling at the emotional intensity of this private stash that has ever so briefly become public, and wondering what storage locker nightmare led to its arrival on your living room floor.
Balding man, 1990s-2000s
Portrait of a man with his tongue out, 1990s-200s
Portrait of man with a cross, 1990s-2000s
Woman with creatures, 1990s-2000s
The Bruce Fallon Smith collection