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Constellation RMJ

by Leon Polk Smith

Acrylic on canvas panels
Dimensions: 71 x 71
Purchased through a National Endowment for the Art grant, 1972

Constellation RMJ by Leon Polk Smith
Photo by John Jernigan

The Artwork

Deviating from the traditional square or rectangular canvas, Leon Polk Smith tended to utilize separate and nonstandard shaped canvases as his starting point. Constellation RMJ is comprised of nine round shaped canvases. This work explores several interests of the artist including hard-edged shapes, curvilinear forms, and color relationships.

The Artist

Leon Polk Smith, born of both Cherokee and European ancestry, was born in Indian Territory near present day Chickasha prior to Oklahoma statehood in 1906. He graduated from East Central University in Ada in 1934. One of the most internationally recognized artists that the state has produced, Smith went to New York City for the first time in 1936 where he was taken with the pure colors and geometric compositions of the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian. He attended Columbia University and remained in New York City for the rest of his life.

His contribution to the development of abstract art was steady and significant. He became interested in curvilinear forms in the 1950s, enjoying their illusion of spherical space. Smith’s works were also inspired by Op Art, and his interest in hard-edge, minimal forms and color relationships, which pervaded his work for decades.