The sculptural artwork of Dr. Charles Smith’s (b. 1940 New Orleans, LA) ranges the tragicomic spectrum. His potent depictions made from concrete, paint and everyday materials exist as an idiosyncratic cosmology. The subjects of his artwork derive from events and people in his own life, as well as historic and mythological figures across well-known and obscure moments in African American history. Smith is known for constructing two large-scale outdoor art environments over the past three decades under the moniker of the African American Art History Museum and Black Veterans Archive. These sites built onto his two homes in Aurora, Illinois and later Hammond, Louisiana contain hundreds of free standing, hanging and installation works. Individually Smith’s sculptures stand as singularly moving forms often graceful in their contortions.
Dr. Charles Smith is a Vietnam War veteran and suffered from exposure to Agent Orange. On returning to the US he began working in fabrication until he was forced to retire due to increasing struggles with disabilities. In the early 1980’s he began making inventive sculptures to process his own experiences and those he had studied in college and beyond affecting African Americans. Smith gave himself the title of “Dr” to signify his earned life experience and education. Smith’s first sculptural site constructed between 1986 to 2000 in Aurora, Illinois was designated a Millenium Site by the Art Institute of Chicago. A majority of its 700 freestanding artworks were acquired by the Kohler Foundation in 2000. In 2001 Smith returned to Hammond, Louisiana to assist his ailing mother, and immediately began a new installation. Now 80 years old, Smith continues his life’s work at this living outdoor museum.
African American Museum and Black Veteran Archives
2001 - Ongoing