Born in 1986, Philadelphia artist Kambel Smith was diagnosed with autism when he was eight years old. At age fifteen, a Christmas gift changed his life forever. An easel and painting supplies revealed his amazing artistic talent. Kambel created hundreds of oil paintings before his dad could no longer afford the expensive supplies. Undeterred, Kambel grabbed cardboard from the trash and started to create sculptures of iconic Philadelphia buildings like the Museum of Art and the Divine Lorraine Hotel.
Over the past ten years, his father has engaged the artist in daily improvised storytelling, encouraging Smith to participate in the created narrative by making drawings and sculpture. Smith typically takes up to five months to realise one of his finished models, and the artist’s hand is evident throughout the process, from the overall structure to precisely observed details. His use of found materials and obsessive attention to detail provide a unique insight into our architectural environment.
Smith creates large-scale sculptures representing iconic works of architecture using cardboard salvaged from the trash and other discarded materials such as foamcore and paint. His recent works include Guild House (2019), Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health (2019), Shake Shack (2019), and Tbilisi Bridge (2019), revealing the artist’s current interest in the work of architects Frank Gehry, Robert Venturi, and James Wines. In the creation of his architectural sculptures, Smith pays painstaking attention to the recreation of details such as cornices, the capitals of columns, and the treatment of windows.
Kambel spends at least seven hours a day carefully creating his sculptures, according to his dad, Lonnie Smith. “Sometimes I can’t even watch him do it,” Lonnie said. “The patience it takes … it will just drive me nuts.”
Coinciding with the exhibition at Marlborough, Smith’s ‘Philadelphia’ will be on view at Fleisher/ Ollman in Philadelphia from November 7, 2019 through January 25, 2020. His work is included in the collections of the American Folk Art Museum, New York, and theWest Collection in Philadelphia.
Smith has had one-person exhibitions at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta GA, the Elaine de Kooning House, East Hampton, NY; 2019, and the Outsider Art Fair (presented by Chris Byrne), New York, NY. He has been included in group exhibitions at Marlborough, London, and One Day You’ll See: A History of Afrofuturism curated by Brian Chidester at the Brooklyn Print & Photo Fair, Brooklyn, New York.
Kambel Smith’s New Work is on show at Marlborough Gallery, Downtown New York until 16 of November