Baba Yaga

Charlie Smith - Cinema

July 31, 2021

Closing August 21st, 2021.

Baba Yaga is pleased to present Cinema, an exhibition of sculptures by Charlie Smith, with a text by Marisa Espe.

The last movie I saw in theaters was Uncut Gems. One version of the plot is that there’s a man who miscalculates the value of an object due to his obsession with it.

Arguably, the main protagonist of the film is the object itself, the precious black opal. The opening scene introduces its origins from Ethiopian mines, establishing its primacy in the narrative. In one of the most provocative transitions the film features, the perspective tunnels into the opal, through its polychromatic fractal interior, and then morphs into a bodily interior from the POV of a colonoscope camera. The man’s fixation with the object resides so deep, the gems are inside him, made of similar stuff as him.

Things in films are props: traditionally, short for ‘property’ of the stage, but also prop in the sense of ancillary support. Props are handled by actors differently than objects in the non-cinematic world—touched subtly more gingerly or held up in a slightly exaggerated manner. However, in Uncut Gems the black opal transcends the status of prop, here the object is real. I watch Adam Sandler’s character attentively transfer it between his hands, and I can approximate its mass. He studies it through his loupe, draws others in to look, and I imagine its gems sparkling against the matte speckled matrix. He carries it around on the streets, and his stride responds to the extra weight, both in carats and affect. I left the movie wondering if the directors had any background as sculptors.

Cinema is an exhibition of sculptures by Charlie Smith. The show title’s reference to moving images affirms a certain quality of Smith’s works that I’ve perceived without a precise term to describe it. ‘Cinema’ is not that precise term, but perhaps more apt in its proximity and simultaneous maintenance of an ambiguity. There is motion in the sculptures. There is implied motion in their tessellated structures—they could turn and comfortably reorient on a new axis, they could cascade and tumble from and into one another. But there is also actual motion derived from the mirrored surfaces of several works. Walking around Tortoise, reflections kaleidoscope around it. I catch parts of my reflection in at least a dozen little frames, like a short sequence of film strip cut into individual cells and scattered.

Many aspects of Smith’s process are precise and exacting. There is an apparent rigor to his craft, but also to the systems from which the iterative forms are produced. In complementary contrast, mysterious things still happen. The unexpected still eludes calculation, and I think in some ways Smith chases that phenomenon, as if doubling down on the technique yields more, new surprises, movie magic.

Marisa Espe

Untitled (Tumbleweed,) 2019. Acrylic paint, PVC plastic, particle board, MDF

Slug, 2021. Acrylic paint, acrylic mirror, particle board

Banquette, 2021. Pine, soap.

Untitled (Pillow,) 2021. Pine, pennies, soap.

Carapace, 2020. Acrylic paint, Acrylic mirror, Particle Board and Untitled (Blue,) 2018. Acrylic paint, Particle Board

Cross, 2021. Acrylic paint, acrylic mirror, MDF

Tortoise, 2021. Acrylic paint, acrylic mirror, MDF