“Now I rent directly from the landlords, who are also arms dealers. You can watch a movie about their family. It’s called War Dogs and stars Jonah Hill,” Chadwick Gibson is probably making fun when he writes about the origins of the first Smart Objects. A small gallery adjacent to the Echoplex on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, the space has been running since late-2012, and its looking set to buck the noted trend of the ‘Five Years‘ life-span for most independent galleries.
Instead of closing down, Smart Objects is expanding. Opening up a second location in a place called ‘Balsa Ranch’ in Landers — an unincorporated community in the Mojave Desert of Southern California, on the border of the better-known Joshua Tree — its first exhibition is an exercise in exploring liminality. Thin Places is named after the narrow threshold between space and experience, and features the work of thirteen artists, including Cheyenne Julien, Pete Marsh, Keely Nelson-Rivers, Paul Rouphail and others from LA, the High Desert area and the East Coast. “I wanted to find a way to have a group show that engaged with the notion of liminal space, as the desert is such a liminal context,” says Gibson about the inspiration behind the new show, “so the term thin places seemed like a perfect vehicle.”
That vehicle comes as the logical next step for the Smart Objects project, opened in the vintage store-owned downstairs of the place where Gibson lived with the founders of Tiny Creatures — a vital but short-lived creative space in Echo Park that was influential enough for Chris Kraus to write about it in Where Art Belongs. Smart Objects has since hosted a number of emergent and successful, always interesting, artists, including Parker Ito, Winslow Laroche, Louisa Gagliardi, Keith J Varadi and more, building on its own influence and mythology that a quip about a landlord’s shady, cinematic past can feed into.
With that, Gibson celebrates the latest milestone in the Smart Objects story by sharing a short selection of highlights from the past four-and-a-half years:
“With The Sum Over Histories, Pascual Sisto explored the endless possibilities of the simple squiggle. Inspired by the theories Nobel Prize winning Physicist Richard Feynman, Sisto extracted small lines from figurative drawings of Feynman’s and then translated them into large steel sculptures that floated like birds on the white gallery walls.”
“At first sight, Derek Paul Boyle‘s show, Roleplay, seems to only exist on the gallery walls. But after viewing his large-scale photographs, depicting surreal scenes of objects gesturing as ‘characters,’ one encounters a closed refrigerator in the back room. Inside, a large cloudy glass jar containing a pair of socks, stuffed full of white cake. After a moment one realizes that these are the same cake and socks depicted in a photo nearby, but past their prime moment of documentation, now just holding on desperately in the IRL ice box.”
“Orange carpet covers the walls of the gallery, topping off at six feet. Hung along the carpet are paintings and drawings. The paintings are blown up versions of Ann Hirsch’s middle school notebook drawings, of girls in her class, all made while at the therapist’s office. The drawings are recent, and depict androgynous strange characters. The drawings seem to embrace the odd qualities of the characters, giving them an endearing tone, which is in contrast to the problematic representations of the girls from her tween-hood.”
“The walls and floors of Smart Objects are pristinely white, so the space glows when lit. It’s hard not to notice it if you’re walking by after dark. Simple black vinyl numbers, or ‘tags,’ appear on walls and pedestals. Scan these with a phone or iPad and augmented reality renderings of art objects will appear, some among the most expensive works sold at auction to date (by Picasso or Giacometti). Chadwick Gibson, the founder of Smart Objects, went to six Christie’s auctions in New York and scanned the work about to appear in record-breaking sales. He calls the show “Christie’s Captures,” and navigating it can be unwieldy. You might back up to get a better view then accidentally move out of range, the artwork disappearing from your screen. A tag might not scan right away. But the images are impressively crafted and the process gratifyingly illicit. These artworks aren’t supposed to be here, “installed” in a small storefront, and some might not be visible to the general public again for years.
— Catherine Wagley in LA Weekly.“**