Bayeté Ross Smith, a Supplementary Biography

Bayeté Ross Smith, Image via Poptower

Once again, there is only one black guy on Work of Art, and this year that’s Bayeté Ross Smith. One of the more active exhibiting artists on the show, Ross Smith’s work is at the deeper end of the conceptual pool. This is a skill that never proved much of an ace in any judge’s hole last year. That he telegraphs his punches, and can be so methodical that he strangles the meaning out of his works, won’t help.


Bayeté earned his MFA in Photography from California College of the Arts in 2004 and has since exhibited with the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Oakland Museum of California, the New Museum's Festival of Ideas, and had a collaborative piece (albeit displayed in the bathroom) in MoMA P.S.1's exhibition 1969. He's received several fellowships and residencies, and he is represented by Beta Pictoris Gallery in Alabama.


Bayeté has made a lot of community-oriented work, video, photography, and identity art. Recently, he successfully funded a Kickstarter for his project “Got the Power,” in which walls of boomboxes broadcast sounds that are native to their area.

Bayete Ross Smith, Rixy, digital C-print, 2010


It's not hard to guess what will come next from Bayeté Ross Smith.  A lot of his recent videos and photographs can be described as two of the same person, dressed as opposing stereotypes, facing each other; usually one of them is the corporate sell-out version.  His documentary work, such as prom photos of teens, are a little less predictable, but it's all very safe.  His subjects are stand-ins for their appearance, and nothing more.


The Identity Artist.


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