Aurel Schmidt

On the Fringes

The work of self-taught New York-based artist Aurel Schmidt operates outside of the mechanisms of the contemporary art world.

By Katya Wachtel NOV 2015

In 2006, billionaire art collector Dakis Joannou purchased two of Aurel Schmidt’s meticulously hewn drawings from a group show in downtown Manhattan. Then 23 years old, it was Schmidt’s first exhibition in the United States and her debut at a commercial gallery.

One of the pieces Joannou bought, titled Super Natural, is an elaborate graphic ravel of life and death. It features a six-foot downy spectre, its body a tangle of exquisitely rendered snakes, moths, maggots and cigarette butts. “A composite of dead things – with intention and energy – gains life again,” offers Schmidt.

The Joannou sales yanked the Canadian-born artist out of obscurity and squarely onto the radar of career-making gallerists and curators. Within a year, she had been granted solo shows at Peres Projects in Los Angeles and Deitch Projects in New York, and commercial and institutional group shows in Europe followed. Later, in 2010 the Whitney Museum of American Art featured Schmidt in its prestigious Biennial, showing her two-metre high rendering of a 21st century Minotaur, complete with Budweiser walking cane, holstered Blackberry, and a cigarette dangling from its lips.

Now 33 years old, Schmidt has eschewed gallery representation for a decade and works from home. She is self-taught, outspoken and highly photogenic, perennially sporting a pair of black-rimmed glasses with a flock of blonde hair that’s always swept to the side. When we speak, she’s in Los Angeles, staying with a friend in the Hollywood Hills. “It’s kind of nice. I’m looking at palm ... Subscribe to read this article in full

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