Sims Reed Gallery, London, London, United Kingdom
This spring Sims Reed Gallery (SRG) presents Up in Smoke by British artist Aaron Kasmin. Following the success of Lucky Strike, Kasmin’s previous show at SRG, the artist is hosting a second exhibition inspired by American feature matchbooks. The exhibition showcases twenty-eight new pencil drawings, which celebrate and pay homage to the glitz and glamour of the post-prohibition era.
Larger in scale and more simplified than the artist’s drawings in Lucky Strike, Kasmin focuses on details of single matchbooks from the late 1920s to the early 1960s, staying true to their graphics and depicting a more expansive range of themes. Ranging from fashion and yachting to restaurants and nightclubs, Kasmin offers a nostalgic glimpse into a bygone era, when the promotion of alcohol was far more lenient and smoking was seen to be chic. In conjunction with the drawings, a selection of the artist’s own vintage matchbook collection is also on display.
Kasmin began collecting Lion Match Company’s matchbooks several years ago, inspired by the lively and inventive images that reflect the rise of America’s consumer culture, originally mass-produced for advertising purposes. The humble matchbook soon became the most effective advertising medium in America, which was embraced by almost every industry. Kasmin subsequently decided to turn them into an art form in their own right, giving the little-known ephemera the attention they deserved, whilst paying homage to the original artists who remain unknown.
Using carbothello pencils Kasmin methodically works from left to right, building up detailed A4 and A5 sized renderings, predominantly using primary colours. The resulting images have a stencil-like quality that incorporate the matches into the images. Highlights include Vogue, 2017 – lipstick; Bottoms Up, 2016, lady drinking a cocktail; Mayflower Hotel, 2016 – Cape Cod beach; Jacques, 2016 – French restaurant in Chicago; Ireland's Oyster House, 2016 – fish and lobster bar; Lincoln Arcade, 2017 – ten pin bowling, all of which conjure up the golden age of Hollywood through their bursts of bold colour and stylish designs. Up in Smoke celebrates a slice of Americana, transporting viewers into the worlds created by the novels of Scott Fitzgerald and Raymond Chandler.
All works in Up in Smoke are available to buy, ranging in price from £850 – £2,000. The exhibition is accompanied by an e-catalogue.