Charlie Smith, “Making/Unmaking” at GRIN

The final night in my trilogy of gallery adventures brought me back to GRIN for the opening reception of Making/Unmaking from Brooklyn based artist Charlie Smith. This event doubled as a MassArt reunion so the gallery was filled with a combination of alumni and community members. Unlike the majority of receptions one attends, the artist gave a short talk elaborating on this body of work. It was an enjoyable experience as it gave direct, in-depth insight into the story of the art on display for those in attendance.

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Reception view with “Patch(ed)(ing)” to the right.

Lumber is a prevalent material in the body of work, warped and painted to be held in a state between the start of creation and its completion. Taking on the characteristics of a multitude of materials, each piece stands in this eternal limbo almost waiting to be finished. The three titular pieces differentiated only by color (Blue, Green, and Yellow) each start off as painted 2x4s but through a series of drilled holes morph into a corrugated cardboard and thus lose their rigid structure and become more malleable. Draped about like fabric, these pieces remain in stasis, unable to complete full transformation. They each range in stage of transformation with Green mimicking drapery most to Blue not quite fully transformed flaccidly hanging off a ledge.

Working around their Making/Unmaking counterparts, most of Smith’s other plywood installations take on characteristics of tapestries or fabric art. Strips, while certainly not disguised as anything but plywood, seems to be a series of thread on the loom, ready to be woven into a finished product. I fear that it waits in vain, whereas Patch(ed)(ing) feels a little closer to completion. Two halves of a board intertwine in this piece vertically creating a fringed effect.

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“Strips” Plywood, Acrylic, Intersecting Object

With Smear/Smush/Push/Paint, a site specific installation, Smith interacts physically with the space with a handmade ball of colored pastel. The process leaves behind not only a physical mark upon the gallery walls, but remnants of the pastel flaked off in the process. The remaining form of the pastel ball hides in a corner across from the work laying in waiting for its next use.

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Remnant of artist made color pastel from “Smear/Smush/Push/Paint”

In my later rounds of wandering amidst the guests of this reception, Smith’s words echoed through my head as I reexamined the work. He compared his use of 2x4s to that of a painter with his paintbrush. And as that bounced around in the back of my mind, the minute details popped out at me. Each piece has such intricate detail with every cut and drill mark, yet they remain a part of the trajectory between it’s original state and what it is working towards. Charlie Smith brings this all into play with his exploration of the nature of time in the making and unmaking of these forms.

(Expect Friday Night’s excursion to be relayed on Thursday. I know that it’s out of order, but just how my brain is operating right now.)

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