Leon Polk Smith was born in 1906 in Chickasha, Indian Country one year before it became the state of Oklahoma. He grew up on his family’s cattle ranch, where his neighbors were predominantly Chickasaw and Choctaw indigenous people. After the ranch was forclosed in 1931, he pursued a career as a teacher by studying at Oklahoma State University and the Teachers College at Columbia University in New York.
Leon Polk Smith’s first gallery exhibition was held at the Uptown Gallery in 1941. Throughout the 1940s he painted rigid, gridded compositions that included his Column and Diagonal Passage paintings, which drew inspiration from Piet Mondrian’s work, as well as cattle and ranching imagery from his upbringing. In the 1950s and into the 1960s, Smith developed with his Correspondence paintings that joined two curvelinear shapes against each other, both on shaped and rectangular canvases. By 1967, Leon Polk Smith began to affix multiple canvases together into Constellation paintings, often extending the painted shaped from one canvas into the next. The constellations allowed Smith, as he put it, to “use the wall as part of the painting”. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, he developed this concept further into his Form Space Series.
Over his long career, Leon Polk Smith exhibited widely in New York and beyond, including such galleries as Betty Parsons, The Stable Gallery, and Susan Caldwell. In 1962, The Museo de Bellas Artes in Caracas organized his first one-person museum exhibition. Smith was included in many important group exhibitions, including The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art in 1966 and Systemic Painting at the Guggenheim Museum in 1966. In 1995, the Brooklyn Museum organized Leon Polk Smith: American Painter, a retrospective exhibition of his work.
Leon Polk Smith passed away in 1996 in New York, at age 90. The Washburn Gallery has regularly held exhibitions of Leon Polk Smith’s work since 1982. The Leon Polk Smith Foundation is now represented by several galleries, including Washburn Gallery, Lisson Gallery (New York, London), and Richard Gray Gallery (Chicago). Smith’s work is present in many Museum and Public Collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
 Leon Polk Smith, Interview with Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Brooklyn Museum, New York 1993. Pg. 40