Despite a oeuvre that draws inspiration from abstraction, Pop Art and advertising, the true legacy of Richard Smith lies in his experimentations with canvas itself, rather than what is painted on it. Challenging the confinement of the rectangular plane, Smith expanded the three-dimensional elements of his canvases, warping them outwards, adding various shapes to their edges, and dispensing of stretchers all together, hanging sheets of painted canvas like giant kites. Smith became well known for the latter, collaborating with choreographer Richard Alston on sets for the ballet Wildlife in 1982. Through these explorations in three-dimensional canvas structure, Smith pushed the boundaries of dimension and form in modern painting.
Smith was awarded the Harkness Fellowship in 1959, which resulted in his relocation from London to New York City. He represented Britain at the 1970 Venice Biennale, and had a solo exhibition at the Tate in 1975. Since then Smith’s work has been shown steadily in various solo and group exhibitions, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, National Gallery, San Francisco Museum of Art, and the Palais des Beaux Arts, Belgium.