Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: October 4th


Today’s pick is the Alexis Smith Chandlerisms #7 (Lot 162). It’s text and collage and also kind of appropriation art. She is appropriating a phrase from a Chandler novel, illustrating an isolated phrase. There is a whole wall full of them at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, approximately the same size and similar in composition – a small object collaged onto a board with a phrase or groups of phrases. The difference between the ones at MOCA and ours is that ours can be hanging on your wall by Monday morning.

Los Angeles collage artist Alexis Smith (born 1949) interprets the American social and cultural landscape through an integration of found objects and literary references. After graduating from the University of California, Irvine in the early 1970s, she moved to Venice, a burgeoning artist’s community. She worked for Frank Gehry, and in her free time she steadily gathered a collection of fragments for her collages from motels, garbage bins, and thrift stores. As a passionate reader, Smith would sift through volumes of Walt Whitman poetry, Jorge Luis Borges short stories, and Raymond Chandler detective novels for literary snippets she could animate with her mounting stockpile of popular culture detritus. Raymond Chandler’s tales of murder in Los Angeles were particularly appealing to Smith, “I really got into his use of metaphor. He made these memorable comparisons to things. I thought, ‘I can do something with those. I can do the visual equivalent.’” For Chandlerisms #7 (1978), Smith extracted a quick, witty string of Chandler’s text and placed it below a pair of miniature cocktail glasses, which serve as a graphic focal point for the film noire dialogue. Smith explained that a unique frame was chosen for each of the Chandlerisms based on the content of the piece. Organized by the Whitney Museum of Art, a retrospective of her work at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1992 showcased many of her Chandlerisms.

Conversation between Peter Loughrey (PL), Richard Dorso (RD), and Bianca Dorso (BD). 

PL: What inspired you to buy the Alexis Smith?

RD: Which one is the Alexis Smith?

BD: The two martini glasses.

RD: Oh, I had forgotten about that. I loved it. I was quirky in what I liked. For instance, I liked Bruce Houston, and I think there are four Bruce Houstons (in the collection). I liked the Alexis Smith for the same reason. I went from paintings to assemblages and there are about close to 10 of them I think between Alexis Smith, Bruce Houston, Hannah Stills and Roland Reiss.

PL: The more I look at your collection the more that I noticed there are so many distinct areas. For example there are a lot of the early classic modern works by the School of Paris artists like Braque and Zao Wou-Ki. I imagine that you collected those works in the 50s and there are a lot of conceptual works from the 60s like text-based works such as Baldessari’s paintings and Alexis Smith’s text based piece, and other works with text on them. And then there are these Pop and Op and graphic works like Robert Indiana and Lichtenstein and the Warhol shopping bag and I wondered did you move on, or did you continually buy things that you were interested in?

RD: I am thinking. I just bought what I liked and there was no plan. I would see something, like the Alexis Smith, which I had forgotten about, and I loved it and bought it.

Lot Information

Lot 162 
Alexis Smith
Chandlerisms #7 
c. 1978 
Collage in Plexiglas frame 
Quote from Trouble is My Business, “Sweet, isn’t he?” she said. “I’d like eight of him for my cocktail set.” 
Frame: 9.5” x 12.25” 
Estimate $1,500-2,000 

Literature: Smith, Alexis. Telephone interview. 28 Aug. 2011.

Watters, Sam. “Alexis Smith, collage artist uprooted.” Los Angeles Times, 16 May 2009. Web. 28 Aug. 2011.


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