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More Than a New Discovery
by Charlie Finch
Alix Smith, "See What I Mean?" July 15-30, 2005, at Visual Arts Gallery, 601 West 26th Street, New York, N.Y. 10001

At the School of Visual Arts graduate photography show, currently on view at Chelsea’s Visual Arts Gallery, we were looking to buy, but snapped up only one piece, a gorgeous shot of Keith Sonnier’s daughter holding a surfboard in the Hamptons, by Alix Smith, for $800.

Like so many newly minted graduates, Alix actually had her first show a while back, at the Caelum Gallery on West 26th Street. The noted photography collector, Jean Pigozzi, whose collection of Seydou Keita’s work was featured in an Art + Auction cover story last spring, bought out Alix’s entire show, possibly because her images of stiff Upper East Siders appealed to Pigozzi’s international playboy persona.

In the SVA show, Smith’s work owes a heavy debt to Tina Barney. Alix invited a diverse group of acquaintances to assemble their favorite possessions and sink into them, as it were. Artist Melissa Dadourian flashes her pert butt nude, astride her collection of classic Playboy magazines, for example.

Alix’s most beautiful snap, from the Pigozzi collection, highlights her sister Bettina, chastely meditating through a strand of pearls, hands primly folded.

Bettina Smith recently departed the prints department at Sotheby’s to become director of Briggs Robinson Gallery in Chelsea, which is featuring shows of David LaChapelle’s wild photographs and prints from the Keith Haring estate this fall. Thus, the chic and astute Smith sisters may become as notable as the Smith Brothers of cough drops fame. Last week they had dinner with ‘60s legend Jack Youngerman, so they know their stuff.

A formalist, Alix Smith does for people what Sandy Skoglund does for cats, put them in an organized, colorful, surrealistic milieu.

Now that she’s free of the SVA faculty’s conceptual pretensions, Alix Smith should soar in the art world.

CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).