Arkitektura Assembly: Bringing together the world of Design

Chaves Smith

Chaves Smith was born in New York and formally educated at New Mexico State University, currently living and working in Oakland. Chaves’s work references his time in New Mexico as well as his extensive nomadic travels, characterized by primal abstractions in rich colors, with an emphasis on geometric shapes and collage. Chaves’s playful figures and symbols celebrate and interpret human connection. While his work is not explicitly political, it references personal struggle and distills simple truths in a complex time.

Chaves is formally trained in fine art photography and photojournalism; however, he is entirely self-taught as a painter. He painted in isolation for years, refining technique and vocabulary, until encouraged by a professional artist to share the work in a solo exhibition in Las Cruces, NM. After exhibiting for several years in New Mexico, Chaves turned to traveling the American west, painting and researching for his expanding body of work before settling in Oakland.

Beast of No Nation Statement
“The beast in me / Is caged by frail and fragile bars / Restless by day / And by night rants and rages at the stars / God help the beast in me”

– Johnny Cash, The Beast in Me

Beasts of No Nation asks the viewer to consider the following: What makes a beast? Is it nature or nurture? How do the structures of race, class, and gender shape our growth and development? How do you relate to society when that society refuses to relate to you? What does nationalism mean when your first recognition of the state is at the moment the state recognizes you as an enemy? What is the value of a system that perpetuates itself by denying value to human beings based on arbitrary distinctions?

Examined within the larger context of our current socio-political landscape, the paintings offer timely and nuanced observations on the state of the nation. However, they are as much a product of their environment as the artist, containing a depth of complex and often contradictory thoughts and emotions. Looking beyond the obvious political implications to apprehend the full scope of the work, a larger picture emerges, that of a candid and multilayered portrait of the artists’ psyche.

Dynamic, meandering lines of the paintings trace his daily maneuvers within institutional structures that seek to curtail his movement and freedom. The rectangular boundaries of the canvas contain the visceral energy of Chaves’ work, similarly, the impulsive freedom of the artist is bound within the imposed frameworks of race, class, and gender. Creating a compelling flowchart of his lived experience as a Black man in 21st century America, the work grapples with questions of identity, heritage, and marginalization. It is a potent visualization of how to move and shake within the framework.

My goal is to paint the honesty, cruelty and joy which is life and eventual death.

Chaves Smith is represented by Lonnie Lee, Vessel Gallery.

Nuclear Man Child II, 2018
Acrylic, enamel on linen
83h x 66w in
210.82h x 167.64w cm CS025
$ 11,000.00