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 Bob and Roberta Smith  (1963 - )

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Lived/Active: England      Known for: humorous installations mocking art institutions, throw away art, teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Patrick Brill, better known by his pseudonym Bob and Roberta Smith (born 1963), is a British contemporary artist, writer, author, musician, art education advocate and keynote speaker. He is known for his "slogan" art, is an associate professor at Sir John Cass Department of Art at London Metropolitan University and has been curator of public art projects, like Art U Need. He was curator for the 2006 Peace Camp and created the 2013 Art Party to promote contemporary art and advocacy. His works have been exhibited and are in collections in Europe and the United States. Brill co-founded The Ken Ardley Playboys and hosts the Make Your Own Damn Music radio show.

His father is the landscape painter Frederick Brill who was head of the Chelsea School of Art from 1965 to 1979. His wife is the contemporary artist and lecturer, Jessica Voorsanger.

Patrick Brill is the son of Frederick Brill (1920-1984), who was the Chelsea Art School head. He has a sister who is a psychiatric nurse, Roberta. He graduated from University of Reading and received a scholarship during that time to The British School at Rome. He then obtained his Master of Arts at Goldsmiths College, London.

Brill is married to fellow artist and Goldsmiths College alumnist, Jessica Voorsanger.

Brill is commonly known as Bob and Roberta Smith in his artistic career.

Smith paints slogans in a unique brightly coloured lettering style on banners and discarded boards of wood and exhibits them in galleries of contemporary art across the world. The slogans are usually humorous musing on art, politics, popular culture, Britain and the world in general and they often support his activist campaigns, such as his 2002 amnesty on bad art at Pierogi Gallery, New York.

Noted for sign painting, Smith also makes sculpture using cement, as in his 2005 Cement Soup Kitchen at Beaconsfield Gallery, London. A sculpture he proposed was shortlisted for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, London.

[Smith] grew attracted to postures of amateurism and failure. His more recent work has suggested an interest in the utopian impulse of art as an agent for social change, although this often seems hedged with doubt or irony? Morgan Falconer

In March 2005 he was commissioned to act as curator on a series of five public art projects in the Thames Gateway housing estates of Essex. The projects were collectively named Art U Need and were documented in a diary-format book by Smith in 2007. Writing of a "glittering Notting Hill Gate" event to introduce the project, Lynn Barber said of Smith: "It was a startlingly unsuitable subject for such a glossy audience, but he held them spellbound. I see him as a sort of Ian Dury of the art world, someone who keeps on trucking, doing his own thing, making absolutely no concessions to fashion or marketability, but generally giving pleasure to everyone who comes across him."

A feature documentary about the work of Bob and Roberta Smith, Make Your Own Damn Art: the world of Bob and Roberta Smith, directed by John Rogers, premiered at the East End Film Festival in 2012. In 2013, he was on the UK Museum of the Year selection panel. He on the Tate board as an artist member.

He has spoken as an advocate for art education and the arts and has been a keynote speaker at symposia and conferences. A recent example of his gift for merging art and politics was illustrated in the 2006 exhibition, "Peace Camp." Smith took part in and curated the show held at The Brick Lane Gallery that explored artists perceptions on Peace. Gavin Turk, Wolfgang Tillmans, and more than 100 other artists were featured. He created a project, the Art Party, in 2013 to make contemporary art more accessible, demonstrate its ability to influence meaningful conversation and political thought. It was launched at the Pierogi Gallery in New York and at the Hales Gallery. An Arts Council sponsored a two-day conference at Crescent Arts in North Yorkshire that year. It brought more than 2000 people who attended discussions of art education in schools and lectures, listened to music and attended performances.

Brill is an Associate Professor at the Sir John Cass Department of Art, Media and Design at London Metropolitan University, teaching bachelor and graduate students. He is also a course leader for the Master of Fine Arts program, researcher and co-lead with Oriana Fox of the Public Acts studio and tutors in fine art.

Patrick Brill performs music, often with a group he co-founded, The Ken Ardley Playboys, who had their first 45 released by Billy Childish on his label Hangman Records. Brill hosts The Bob & Roberta Smith Radio Show called Make Your Own Damn Music on Resonance FM.

Exhibitions
    ?    2002 - Bunch of Cowards, Collective Gallery, Edinburgh
    ?    2002 - It's not easy being a famous Artist, Galerie Praz Delavallade, Paris
    ?    2002 - The Art Amnesty, Deptford X, London
    ?    2002 - The New York Art Amnesty, Pierogi 2000, New York
    ?    2002 - Useless men and Stupid Women, Anthony Wilkinson Gallery, London
    ?    2003 - The Mobile Reality Creator, Compton Verney
    ?    2004 - Help Build The Ruins of Democracy, The Baltic
    ?    2005/06 - Make Your Own Damn Art, Stanley Picker Gallery, Kingston, UK
    ?    2005/06 - Should I Stay Or Should I Go? (Dilemmas For Margate), Margate High Street, Turner Contemporary
    ?    2005/06 - The Beautiful Poetry of Bob and Roberta Smith, Hales Gallery, London
    ?    2007 - Peace Camp, The Brick Lane Gallery, London
    ?    2008 - Fourth Plinth, The National Gallery, London[8]
    ?    2008 - Tate Christmas Tree, Tate Britain, London
    ?    2009 - Altermoden, Tate Triennial exhibition, Tate Britain, London
    ?    2014/15 - Art Amnesty, MoMA PS1, Long Island City, NY

Collections
    ?    Arts Council Collection, London
    ?    British Council, London
    ?    Goss Michael Foundation, Dallas, Texas
    ?    Sammlung Fiede, Aschaffenburg, Germany
    ?    Southampton City Museum & Art Gallery, Southampton, England
    ?    Tate Collection, London
    ?    The New Art Gallery Walsall, Walsall, UK

Source:
"Bob and Roberta Smith", Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_and_Roberta_Smith (Accessed 2/15/2015)

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Following is The New York Times review: "A Disposable Commodity Indeed, Bob and Roberta Smith: Art Amnesty" at MoMA PS1 by Ken Johnson, October 30, 2014

In the outdoor courtyard at MoMA PS1 stands a quartet of trash-hauling bins, each emblazoned with a word spelled in big block letters. Together, they direct visitors, "Throw your art away." As of Thursday, a few people had accepted this invitation. Except for a slim pile of nondescript drawings in one, a small amateurish painting on canvas and some ordinary garbage, the bins were empty. But they could eventually be filled, as they will remain in place for another four months as part of "Art Amnesty," an offbeat exhibition conceived by Bob and Roberta Smith.

Bob and Roberta Smith, it should be noted, is the cognomen of not two but one British artist who specializes in humorously mocking art institutions and the conventional attitudes they tend to promulgate. Born Patrick Brill in 1963, he adopted the name Bob Smith while unsuccessfully pursuing a career in art and performance in New York in the late 1980s. Upon returning to England in the '90s, he briefly collaborated with his sister, Roberta, and so added and kept her name. He claims he never meant to refer to The New York Times's art critic Roberta Smith.

The ostensible idea of the show ? or what would more accurately be called a long-running event ? is to give people an opportunity to retire officially from making art and ceremonially to discard works of art they own but no longer want, whether made by themselves or by others. Those who prefer not to use the bins may bring the art to the main exhibition on PS1's second floor, where they will be displayed for one last time (at the discretion of the museum) before being disposed of when the show ends in March. It sounds like it ought to be fun, but as it stands for now, as an exhibition it's more dispiriting than entertaining. As a conceptual stunt, however, it's a good conversation starter.

Works by Mr. Smith are sparsely distributed throughout the eight rooms of PS1's main second-floor gallery. They include colorful, neatly hand-painted signs and texts painted on various found objects. Some are comical, but none are truly hilarious. A large fabric banner proclaims, "Joseph Beuys conclusive proof not everyone is an artist." Numerous signs insult famous artists: "Michelangelo has lice"; "Georgia O'Keeffe is distasteful"; and "Donald Judd tells lies." Some messages might be taken as sincerely positive. One of several painted on pizza boxes announces, "Art stands for stimulus, invention, investment and imagination."

Anonymous discarded works are also distributed throughout, and much empty wall space remains for pieces yet to come. Herein lies the show's big problem. So far, little of what's on display is very interesting. There are many indifferent sketches and doodles on paper and a smattering of modest, slapped together sculptures. There are a couple of grotesque sculptures: a biomorphic metal horror and another resembling giant teeth of a prehistoric mammal. A painting of a mouse in a glass of water captioned with the question "Is the glass half full or half empty?" made me stop and think: It doesn't matter to the mouse, because either way it drowns. (The creators of all of the works are unidentified.) But generally, what you see isn't the kind of wonderfully bizarre or hideous work that, for example, the artist Jim Shaw has acquired for his "Thrift Store Paintings" collection. And there's no evidence that any real professional has taken the event as the occasion to stop making art.

On the other, nonvisual, conceptual hand, the event does usefully prompt thought about art and the ways it's valued and not valued in contemporary society. For that dimension, the show's framework is worth considering in detail.

On entering the gallery, you approach a table where you may choose to sign one of three pledges printed on white cards. One is for those who have something to get rid of. It says, "I never want to see this work of art again." If you're in that group, you must sign an "Art Amnesty Participation Waiver and Release," a document in which you certify that you're over 18 and the sole owner of the work in question. It also indemnifies MoMA PS1 against any subsequent legal action in this regard. If it is in compliance with certain requirements ? it must be under a certain size and not contain toxic or illicit materials ? the work will be displayed with the pledge card affixed to it. The pledge reads, "I promise never to make art again." Sign that one, and you get a button that declares, "I am no longer an artist." Those who take the vow are invited to produce one last artwork using the drawing materials provided. Those drawings will be hung with their pledge cards.

On the face of it, the third pledge seems contrary to the two others. It states: "I will encourage children to be all that they can be. Choose art at school." Children who come to the show with their parents can make drawings that will be collected along with the pledges and mailed to local politicians to encourage support for arts funding and education.

Taken together, the three pledges invoke stages in the career of the typical, uncelebrated artist, from hopeful beginning to more or less frustrated maturity to death. The exhibition's introductory wall text quotes Mr. Smith: "The personal journey for most artists starts with enthusiasm and joy and ends, if the artist does not have huge success, in embarrassed children taking their dead parents' work to the dump."

That is funny, but all too frequently, painfully true. Arguably, so is this wry observation by Mr. Smith: "Many artists delude themselves into believing that they are promising, productive artists when they would live much more fulfilled and useful lives engaged in proper employment."

Of course, Mr. Smith is a deep believer in art. Underlying his apparent skepticism is the soul of a romantic populist. That's why he is driven to satirize all the usual bromides about art's value and to peel away its sclerotic institutional and professional scaffolding. Implicitly, he asks: So what if most artworks fail by worldly standards, and most artists go unheralded to their graves? No matter, the creative spirit of art is ultimately a great and good thing. Without it, wouldn't we be less than human?

"Bob and Roberta Smith: Art Amnesty," continues through March 8, 2015 at MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Avenue, at 46th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens; 718-784-2084, momaps1.org.

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