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Kimber Smith
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Southampton, N.Y.
One of the second generation of American Abstract Expressionist painters, Kimber Smith painted geometric shapes in bright colors. Born in Boston in 1922, he moved to York City in 1939. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, Smith returned to New York in 1945 where he studied at the Art Students League and worked as a typographer. His first exhibition was at New York’s New Gallery in 1951, together with works by Joan Mitchell (1925-1992). Smith went with his wife, the former Gabrielle Staub, to Paris in 1954, where she worked for Life Magazine as a correspondent and he joined the group of American artists working there, including Mitchell and Sam Francis (1923-1994). Smith exhibited in galleries in Paris, Bern, Basel, Zurich, and Düsseldorf while he lived in Paris. Probably thanks to Francis, Smith contributed six color lithographs to Walasse Ting’s (1929-2010) 1964 book of poetry and lithographs, 1¢ Life; Francis was the editor of the volume. Smith returned to the United States and taught for a time at the Dayton (Ohio) Art Institute, which held an exhibition of his work in 1965. He and his wife moved back to New York City in 1966, and exhibited in a variety of galleries in America and Europe over the rest of his life. He remained friends with Mitchell and with Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011), who were godmothers for his two sons. He was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1971. Suffering from ill health in 1975, he moved from New York City to East Hampton, on New York’s Long Island. Notwithstanding continuing bad health, he continued painting until his death in the Southampton Hospital in 1981. His works continue to be shown in public museums and private galleries; the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland, mounted a retrospective exhibition of his works in 2004. (TNB 4/2014)