Wednesday: Jo Smail: "The Past is Present"

Sept. 13

South Africa-born, Baltimore-based artist Jo Smail has always embraced the unknown in her chunky, shapely collages and paintings. "I think if you start painting what you know, it's probably going to be boring," she told me in 2015. "I think what you don't know is much more interesting and much more challenging." For this solo show of new work at Goya Contemporary, Smail digs deeper into her history, confronting her upbringing in South Africa during apartheid, using fragments of newspaper articles, advertisements, mail, and other ephemera that she held onto when she fled the country, which she scans and prints out and globs paint and cardboard and other materials onto. As the exhibition title suggests—and as we often hear repeated—the past is never really past, and digging into it can help elucidate the present, even if only in small ways. Mining a personal archive and trying to find some larger political meaning, Smail writes in her statement: "I reveal and exorcise horror and injustice—remember family I loved and lost—laugh at the absurdity of old ads. The small constructions assert themselves differently:  I am trying to conjure magic out of the little leftovers of a life." Opening reception 6-8 p.m., on display through Nov. 7, Goya Contemporary, 3000 Chestnut Ave., Mill Centre #214, (410) 366-2001,, free. (Rebekah Kirkman)

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