Bob and Roberta Smith knows how to make a point. In the exhibition The Art Party USA Comes to the UK at Hales Gallery at the moment (okay, not for much longer but there’s still a chance to catch the show if you’re quick), he’s in full-on soap box mode – he’s even made his own soap boxes for the occasion – in a bid to entice us to join the Art Party of the USA. The starting point for the Art Party was Bob and Roberta Smith’s May 2011 letter to Michael Gove, which he published to encourage others to write in to emphasise the importance of art in the school curriculum. Not a political party in any traditional sense, according to the website in order to join one simply needs to “make some art and encourage others to do so!”
There is of course a very long tradition of text painting. It’s just that it’s not an art tradition but a commercial one: signwriting. Though shop signs are seldom painted now it’s still a form we recognise. This is an approach to painting that is about immediate communication of a message. And it’s an approach Bob and Roberta Smith uses very effectively as art.