Since the mid 1960s, Keith Smith has taken a non-purist approach to photography and book making. Smith's disinterest in categorizing his work set him apart from his peers and made him a rogue member of both the photography and printmaking departments at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Smith has sewn his photographs into quilts, explored etching, drawing and transferring his images to shoes and fabrics, but sequencing his images in a “book experience” has remained a priority throughout his career. Smith's interest in experimenting with new material and technological processes has resulted in over 280 unique artist books, where the physical object is as important as its content. His works are often radical departures from conventional books–made of string or covered in fabric, they unfold, light-up, do not open, are unbound, or punched full of holes. Time weaves back and forth in Smith's work and certain themes recur: desire, memory, poetry, image repetition, and sequence.
Born in 1938 in Tipton, Indiana, Smith received his B.A.E. from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1967 and his M.S. from the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1968. He has taught at the Visual Studies Workshop, UCLA, The School of the Art institute of Chicago, and the University of Illinois. Since joining Bruce Silverstein, the artist has had four solo exhibitions at the gallery.
Smith’s work has been exhibited widely in the United States and internationally, including the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House; Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna, Turin; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1978 survey of American Photography since 1960, alongside prominent artists William Eggleston and Lee Friedlander. In 1988, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts organized a major retrospective of his work. Smith is the recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships, a National Endowment of the Arts grant, and a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant.
Major museum collections holding works by the artist include the Art Institute of Chicago; Center of Creative Photography, University of Arizona; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University; International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Smith is also a popular author of textbooks on books, all published by Keith Smith BOOKS, amongst them 200 Books, an Annotated Bibliography, First Edition, May 2000; Books without Paste or Glue, Non-Adhesive Binding Volume I, The Revised & Expanded Edition, 1999; and Structure of the Visual Book, Expanded Fourth Edition, 2003. He lives and works in Rochester, New York.