Good Work Gallery Curator Zach Smith hopes to relate and be related to. His primary goal as both curator and artist liaison is to “look for connections that should be there.” His most recent show, The Lorax Poems, seeks out and sustains these relationships. The group exhibition, which opened in Bushwick’s Good Work Gallery on October 3rd, mixes different media, messages, and motivations, all linked by artist devotion to environmental awareness.
The idea for the exhibition is over a year old. At the time of its inception, Smith notes that there was “such a level of people talking about technology and art that I felt like it didn’t need another voice in the dialogue. So I thought, ‘What’s the total opposite?’” Technology’s antipode? Nature, of course. And so Smith went from screen to green.
Smith reflects on the digital art scene: “We’re safe. There’s gonna be plenty of work dealing with technology. I’d love to see that there’s an equal amount of work being made that deals with the way things have always been.” Smith’s vision was to present a new curatorial perspective, an ideological oxymoron equal parts innovative and nostalgic.
To add levity to a topic of such gravity, Smith looked to Dr. Seuss. He explains, “I called on The Lorax to make it fun. A lot of the content is not optimistic and deals with exactly how far we need to go to create awareness.” Smith also drew inspiration from an old professor, Bill Knott, who was “the real-life version of The Lorax.”
The show’s topic, the intersection of art and nature, is just broad enough to lend itself to a wonderful uniqueness and opportunity for dialogue. Smith has brought people together from smaller points of view and disparate corners, only related by this common sympathy. Thus, ideological homogeneity replaces an aesthetic one. He has found the harmony in differing disciplines coming together and asking questions of one another.
This ideological homogeneity is found not just in the artists’ views toward nature, but in their views towards the way art comes to be. Simply put, Smith describes their unifying trait as the ability to “develop technique out of anything, whether it’s obvious or not.” He expands, “As far as techniques, the show’s works are innovative and inspiring. The show stresses the importance of getting content that’s not just formal, but also emotional and personal, into materials that you wouldn’t necessarily think of. It can feel ironic, but it feels personal.”
While the show centers around nature, Smith’s opus does not vilify technology and the digital age. Instead, he lauds them as essential tools for the innovation and uniqueness about which he delivers great praise. His vision for the future art world includes creators engaging with science. He highlights one of the show’s artists, Carson Fisk-Vittori, whose “art looks like lab experiments.” Hoping to inspire, Smith muses, “I’d love to see people coming out of the underground, making work that doesn’t come from the art store.” As Dr. Seuss observes in the eponymous book, “It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.” Luckily, Smith shares this optimism about the future of creativity.
Whether visiting for five minutes or five hours, Smith implores viewers not to let the dialogue end upon exiting the gallery. After all, a wise man once said: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Written by our amazing ArtBinder intern Caelan Fortes