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American Game, 2023, Oil on canvas, 42 x 38"

David Smalling creates compositions that investigate how taboos and cultural norms reveal the history of individuals and communities. Drawing from a rich tapestry of inspiration that spans old master portraiture, high fashion, and Mise-en-scène design, his compositions hint at an elusive and thought-provoking new aesthetic firmly grounded in the artifice and stylistic opulence of Renaissance brushwork. Riffing on popular culture, art history, and his own coming-of-age experiences, he creates figurative paintings that are satirical and self-deprecating. His practice is deeply rooted in Mannerist and Dutch Golden Age painting traditions. The Jamaican-born artist moved to the U.S. in his late teens - a cultural juxtaposition that provided a unique insight into how colorism shapes one’s becoming. His figurative oil paintings address how fear and expectations drive the complexity of human emotions. Works are often autobiographical and convey stories inspired by his insecurities and personal relationships - scenes evoke themes of friendship and betrayal, sex and luck, money and class.

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