Barbara T. Smith & Friends


March 18th - May 13th, 2023

Opening Reception March 18th, 4-7pm


Listen to the walthrough now with Barbara T. Smith, Nancy Buchanan, and Hal Glicksman now:




An artist's life in storage; an artist's practice of holding or discarding works of their own and others, teaches us about who they are as artists and what and who they value as influences. In the case of Barbara T. Smith, one sees both her support of friends whose works she admired and appreciated, and the dedication to safeguarding her own works, as a means to tell their story and create her legacy. In some cases she has stored these works for over 50 years.


This exhibition, Treasures, will be a presentation of the work of Barbara T. Smith and over twenty other artists whose work she has in her personal collection. The idea of this show came together as Smith and The Box were working together to organize her Artist Estate, realizing how many fantastic works she has been collecting: by trading/exchanging with her own work, buying the artworks when she could afford to, storing pieces when others couldn’t, or when works were given to her as gifts. The majority of the works in the exhibition are from the 1960s and 1970s, and will range from large paintings to small mail art exchanges. Artists included are: C. Lewis Baltz, Chris Burden, James Lee Byers, Sister Mary Corita, John Duncan, Fred Eversley, Dr. Elsa Garmire, Phil Hefferton, George Herms, Channa Horwitz, Shiro Ikegawa, Daniel Larue Johnson, Kim Jones, Allan Kaprow, Dick Kilgroe, Fred Mason, Paul McCarthy, Karen Neubert, Michael Olidort, Bill Ransom, James Rosenquist, and Richard Rubenstein. 


The work of George Herms included in the exhibition tells a story of support and friendship. The piece titled F from 1965, was one of a series of assemblages that he made while living on the property of Smith’s then home in Pasadena. This landmark Greene & Greene house, where she lived with her then husband Allen and their three children, had a garage apartment where they would house artists, many whom she met while working at the Pasadena Art Museum. George Herms was one of these artists, and as a means to financially support him, they acquired this work which he had informally installed on the side of the garage.  It's a fantastic example of Herm's grimey appealing wall works, including a baby doll and used paint brushes.  


As a comparative story, we will be showing a unique early sculpture of Barbara T. Smith’s titled Night Stand from 1963. This piece gives a glimpse into her early life with her husband, and the erosion and death of her marriage. It includes a small blue bed stand holding a top surface with a constructed tableau that includes a miniature velvet coffin that opens up to a small doll with blue plastic wrapping around its head and black onyx beads. When recently unpacking this work Smith commented, “this is about the death of my marriage”. The harsh truth revealed that simultaneous to Smith’s development as an artist came the end of her marriage. Coming from a family of morticians, Smith was surrounded by death, its aesthetics, and the psychological associations that might entail.  The implications of which are seen in both this work and her other performances, one of which is included in the exhibition titled Piercing the Corporate Veil, 1980. 


This collection of works presents the artist as witness to her community, herself, and practice.  One comes away seeing a larger, more expansive understanding of how artists live, and gives us a glimpse into how Smith engaged with her artist community in genuine ways. To this day with Smith, going through the artworks of others one sees the memories flooding in, and her remembering these artists and her individual experiences with them. The deeply interpersonal revelations unearthed in this curated selection of pieces in Treasures will be many.  



Barbara T. Smith (1931, Pasadena) is a visual artist who for over five decades has produced a body of work in performance, painting and sculptural installation. Smith studied painting at Pomona College in the early 1950s and later studied independently with Emerson Woelffer at Chouinard Art Institute. She was part of UC Irvine’s first class of the Masters of Arts program (1969-71), where she developed her practice alongside her peers Nancy Buchanan and Chris Burden. Smith spent formative years in her artistic development as a volunteer and then Educator at the Pasadena Art Museum where Walter Hopps encouraged her artistic career. Throughout her career, Smith has been involved with important alternative art spaces including F Space, the Woman’s Building, and 18th St. Arts Center.


Recent exhibitions include The Way to Be (2023) at The GETTY CENTER, Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952–1982 (2023) at LACMA, how we are in time and space: Nancy Buchanan, Marcia Hafif, Barbara T. Smith (2022) at Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, and Holy Squash (2021) at Cirrus Gallery in Los Angeles. Notable past exhibitions include multiple shows with WACK!; State of Mind (2011,2013) at The Orange County Museum of Art, Bronx Museum, and Smart Museum of Chicago; Under the Big Black Sun (2010) at MOCA Los Angeles; and Out of Actions: Between Performance & the Object, 1947-1979 (1998) at MOCA Los Angeles and MAK-Austrian Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna. Smith will have a solo exhibition opening in October 2023 at the ICA LA curated by Jenelle Porter.