Skip to main content

Smith, Vincent, 1984 - 1990

 Item — Multiple Containers

Scope and Contents

Painter Vincent Smith delivered 5 lectures. Smith spoke on 1/24/1984 (2015-0002/RR269), 3/18/1986 (2015-0002/RR270), 3/24/1987 (2015-0002/RR271), 2/16/1988 (2015-0002/RR319) and 1/30/1990 (2015-0002/AC19). Smith was an American artist, painter, printmaker and teacher and known for his depictions of black life. Smith's work appeared in over 25 solo shows and 30 group exhibitions. His style was described as a bridge between Cubist and Abstract Expressionism.

AC 19 Leon Bailey introduces Vincent Smith. Mr. Smith presents a slide show illustrating a presentation on his activities of the previous two years as a demonstration of the ups and downs of an artist in the course of his/her artistic career.

RR 269 Edward O'Connor makes several announcements before the introduction of the speaker, artist Vincent Smith. Mr. Smith gives some personal background before presenting a slide show of his work.

RR 270 Artist Vincent Smith discusses the pigeonholing of individuals and their work and how inhibiting this is for those in the creative arts. [Hum (buzz) until ~ 0:2:45 and sound quality improves by 0:03:00 mark]

RR 271 Professor Leon Bailey introduces visual artist, Vincent Smith. Mr. Smith speaks about his life as an artist; starting from childhood and the influence of reading and painting on his decision to become an artist. [sound disappears at 0:03:25 and returns 0:03:41]

RR 319 Vincent Smith speaks about the lack of understanding between people and cultures and the emphasis of the dominant culture. The absence or overlooked segment is what he tires to exemplify in his art.


  • 1984 - 1990

Conditions Governing Access

Links to digitized content are included in the finding aid.

Biographical / Historical

Vincent DaCosta Smith was born on December 12, 1929, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. He attended an integrated school where he studied piano and the alto sax. Smith worked a range of jobs before he became a full-time artist. At 16, he worked for the Lackawanna Railroad repairing tracks. At 17, Smith enlisted in the army and traveled with his brigade for a year. It wasn't until after his time in the army that Smith began to paint and printmaking. At the age of 22, Smith was working in a post office where he grew to be friends with fellow artist Tom Boutis.

Tom Boutis took Smith to a Paul Cézanne show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1951. After seeing the Cézanne show, Smith resigned from his position at the post office and began reading extensively about art. He studied at the Art Students League of New York with Reginald Marsh. Later, he began to sit in on classes at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and studied painting, etching, and woodblock printmaking. After attending classes at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and the Art Students League of New York, he was accepted and received a scholarship to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, where he studied from 1953 to 1956.

Smith was a figurative painter who used abstractions and materiality to make something new. Smith's work depicts the rhythms and intricacies of black life through his prints and paintings. Many of his paintings and prints rely heavily on patterns. Smith has described his own work as "a marriage between Africa and the West." Over his life, he worked in both painting and printmaking.

In 1959, Smith won the John Hay Whitney Fellowship which allowed him to travel to the Caribbean for a year. During this year he was deeply inspired by the customs and lifestyle of the native people. Throughout his life, Smith attended various art schools but it was not until turning 50 he returned to college to earn an official degree. From 1967 until 1976 he taught at the Whitney Museum’s Art Resource Center. Later in 1985, he taught printmaking at the Center for Art and Culture of Bedford Stuyvesant.

Smith died in Manhattan on the December 27, 2003, at the age of 74

His work is included in many public museum collections including Art Institute of Chicago,[9] Newark Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Metropolitan Museum of Art, Yale University Art Gallery,[10] Davidson Art Center, Fitzwilliam Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, among others.

[ /]


4 Reels (Magnetic tape audio recordings) : RR 269 1 reel, 1:00:39; tape speed 3¾ IPS; track position ½-Track Mono; Substrate: Polyester. RR 270 1 reel, 1:15:52; tape speed 3¾ IPS; track position ½-Track Mono; Substrate: Polyester. RR 271 1 reel, 0:48:28; tape speed 3¾ IPS; track position ½-Track Mono; Substrate: Polyester. RR 319 1 reel, 0:52:06; tape speed 3¾ IPS; track position ½-Track Mono; Substrate: Polyester.

1 Cassettes (Audio cassette tape recording) : AC 19 1 cassette, Side A-0:48:19, Side B-0:13:08. The recordings were combined for ease of listening. The combined run time of the digital recording is 1:01:23.

Language of Materials

From the Series: English