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Ray Smith at the crossroads

A retrospective at new gallery Mana Contemporary finds the Mexican-American artist between themes, tropes, and traditions.



With a color-saturated, cross-cultural, hyper-referential flourish, the new gallery Mana Contemporary Chicago opens its doors on September 22. Its first exhibition collects more than 100 pieces spanning 30-odd years of work by the Mexican-American painter and sculptor Ray Smith, many of them drawn from the artist's personal collection. "Here | Now" takes a sweeping view of Smith's far-reaching fascinations, recurring questions, and utterly unique eye. Known for playing at the interstices of things—between modernism and magical realism, between the political and the spiritual, between the traditions and tropes of Mexican muralism and those of European modern art—Smith complicates the question of borders, borderlands, and the places in between. His work could very well be said to occupy that uneasy, almost surreal space between cultures, nations, whole traditions of art. Smith draws our eye to the imaginary line of demarcation and separation, bringing it so close that it blurs, and then disappears. Opening day features music by electronica duo Coppice, a performance by choreographer Benjamin Wardell, and film screenings by Jeremy Bessoff and Monica Thomas.

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