Studio Visit: Smithe Combats Urban Chaos With Imaginative Murals and Illustrations

by Caitlin DonohuePosted on

In a 200 year old building in Mexico City’s central historic district, illustrator, graphic designer and street artist Smithe brings to life scenes from another world. Downstairs from his studio, there is a cantina that still houses a bullet fired from Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa’s gun. The street outside is on the route of the city’s largest civic demonstrations, which regularly block traffic to the area. Some 20 million people live their lives in the near vicinity. When Hi-Fructose visited his studio and showroom for the Tony Delfino clothing line, for which Smithe serves as creative director, the 26-year-old artist said his work is meant as an antidote, albeit temporary, to this urban madness.

“My work doesn’t have a social message,” said Smithe, who was born and raised in his country’s capital and now lives in the western neighborhood of Iztapalapa. “It’s imaginative, a distraction so that people can let their heads fly for a moment – then go back to the chaos.” His pieces have much to do with humankind’s navigation of the industrial world. In dusky jewel tones, men-robots disintegrate before one’s eyes or hurtle through the air, detailed steam-powered beasts break the chains affixing them to the wall, bricks are dissected to reveal rib cages. In his sculptural work, melancholy faces melt through a grater or drip to the floor of their own accord. The artist counts 19th-century Mexican printmaker José Guadalupe Posada and 1970s Virgil Finlay sci-fi comics as his primary influences, and has traveled extensively to paint walls, notably for an immigration-related piece in Bushwick, a mystic work completed in June for the Richmond Mural Project and a large-scale piece for the Pangeaseed Sea Walls mural project in Isla Mujeres, Mexico this past week.

“I want to leave a piece of mortality in the world,” Smithe told Hi-Fructose. “Leave a piece of what I am on this planet.” He’s got a good start – and check for Smithe’s work to show up in an August show with Mexican artists Kraken and Seher at Tara McPherson’s Cotton Candy Machine NYC gallery, at Flatstock Europe in September, and later this fall in Barcelona, for a show in which he will be once again paired with Seher. Don’t sleep on Tony Delfino either, the brand will release a Twin Peaks-themed collection in October.

Studio visit photos by Sally Wilson.

Pangeaseed Sea Walls project in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, July 2014

Brooklyn, 2013

Collaboration with Seher in Hamburg, Germany, 2013

Collaboration with Seher in France, 2013

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