Welcome to the psychedelic world of Larry Smart, a trippy smorgasbord of vivid colours and swirling shapes. The Muse Gallery in London just held the first ever solo exhibition on the artist, appropriately titled RETRO-spective, to tie in with the Summer of Love – now celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
If you were unfortunate enough to miss this display of iconic pop legends including John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan, as well as mandalas, Marrakech riads and glorious landscapes… fear not. Grab your kaftan, throw up some peace signs and immerse yourself in Smart art with images from the Bridgeman archive.
Moved by the Middle East
Larry Smart was born in 1945 in Beckenham, South London but grew up in the far more exotic Baghdad, where he was surrounded by the geometrical forms of Islamic Sacred art, which would later influence his works. During 1988 – 2005 he went on a life-changing trip to Marrakech and completely fell in love with the place, returning on many occasions to capture the beauty of Moroccan landscapes and sell them through the Mamounia hotel. He spent up to three months in a year in the vibrant country, making sketches and drawings.
Influenced by Riley, the UFO and 60s Icons
During the early 1960s Larry studied at Croydon Art College, where renowned painter Bridget Riley was one of his tutors. You can see how her linear, optical images and consideration of colour inspired his works during this period. Smart subsequently gained his strong ties with music and pop culture after he danced with Exploding Galaxy at the UFO Club in Tottenham Court Road in 1966. Exploding Galaxy were a free-form, relaxed-style dance troupe named after a painting by Larry of the Malwiya Minaret in Sammara, Iraq that represented the spiral nature of the universe. Both Pink Floyd and the Soft Machine were also house bands at the legendary UFO Club.
It was in the two years following this far-out dancing that Smart created the iconic silk screen images of John Lennon Kaleidoscope Eyes, Jimi Hendrix Fire, Bob Dylan Liquid Light and Frank Zappa (still unrecovered). In fact – several Smart paintings still remain missing to this day. London’s V&A Museum currently holds Smart’s Hendrix poster in its permanent collection and used his Kaleidoscope Eyes image to publicise its recent Revolution: Records and Rebels 1966-1970 exhibition.
With his style rapidly growing in popularity, Larry undeniably became music’s go-to artist for euphoric, eye-catching graphics. Beatles band-member George Harrison even commissioned Larry to paint a trompe l’oeil at the end of a hallway in his Friar Park Mansion, in 1971. Larry also designed and painted the Atomhenge stage set for the Hawkwind tour.
Gorgeous Gardens and Landscapes
In the 70s and 80s, Larry took a slight step away from the wild and heady world of music and was commissioned to paint people’s country houses. Thus you can find a number of civilised hedge-trimming and cricket-playing images in the archive by the artist, although he still maintained his signature use of bright, vivid colours.
In addition to gardens and the landscapes of Morocco, Larry also loved to paint a wide range of rural settings from his travels. From Sussex wheatfields to Japanese paddy fields, his images certainly give us wanderlust!
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Bridgeman represent the Estate of Larry Smart. Contact email@example.com for information on licensing and copyright.