States Of Being

Paul Anthony Smith

Biography Press News

Works (Tap to zoom)


Paul Anthony Smith (b. Jamaica, 1988; lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) creates paintings and unique picotage on pigment prints that explore the artist’s autobiography, as well as issues of identity within the African diaspora. Referencing both W.E.B. Du Bois’ concept of double consciousness and Franz Fanon’s theory of cultural confusions caused by colonialism, Smith alludes to diasporic rituals of adorning the body. Trained in ceramics, Smith uses sharp, hand-crafted wooden and metal tools to pick away at the surfaces of photographs he has taken, obscuring and altering his subjects.

Smith’s practice celebrates the rich and complex histories of the post-colonial Caribbean and its people. Memory, migration, and home are central to Smith’s work, which probes questions of hybrid identities between worlds old and new. Smith’s layered picotage is often patterned in the style of Caribbean breeze block fences and modernist architectural elements that function as veils, meant both to obscure and to protect Smith’s subjects from external gaze. While photography typically functions as a way in which to reveal and share information, Smith’s picotage has a concealing and purposefully perplexing effect. Forcing these nuanced diasporic histories into a singular picture plane, Smith encourages layers of unease within these outwardly jovial portraits. Picotage serves as an access point as Smith interrogates which elements of identity are allowed to pass through the complexities of borders and migration. Amidst tensions and misidentifying gazes remains the power of community assembly – a reminder of the Jamaican coat of arms, which reads: “Out of many, one people.”


Paul Anthony Smith: Tradewinds
20th Street, Feb 25 – Apr 03, 2021
20th Street, Apr 04 – May 11, 2019
Parking On Pavement
The School, Nov 17, 2018 – Mar 02, 2019
The Coffins of Paa Joe and the Pursuit of Happiness
The School, Jun 08, 2017 – Feb 24, 2018
The Coffins of Paa Joe and the Pursuit of Happiness
24th Street, Jun 08 – Aug 25, 2017