Display Cases in the Great Hall: Exhibition Archive
November, 2013- January 17th, 2014
Alabaster and Albacore
Christopher Smith's Alabaster and Albacore is a series of lush and velvety photographic prints, showing proposed video installations in the interiors of recognizable landmarks and public spaces, including the James B. Duke House. In this body of work Smith engages themes of transience and permanence, movement and color, nature and displacement.
Taking elements of color and bubbles from his ongoing "Painter Project," Smith transforms them, draping them over the railings of staircases, suspending them from the skylights and floating them across the floor toward the viewer. Using techniques attuned classic films like as director Carol Reed’s “Odd Man Out (1947, Two Cities film), Jean-Luc Godard’s “Two or Three Things I Know About Her,” (1967, Argos Films), or Martin Scorsese’s 1976 classic, “Taxi Driver,” Smith hones in on the bubbles floating in front of the camera as visual metaphors for the transience of life, the fragility of the moment. Bubbles and the splashes that rise where they pop become classic, universal and timeless metaphors placed into familiar contexts with dramatic impact.
A floor flooded with red paint and blue bubbles forms a liquid carpet sliding underfoot, lit by the fires in chandeliers and sconces along the marble walls. Smith offers an intimate scene of warmth and protection, while a narrow door opens to a sunlit window beyond, revealing a slit of green light entering the darkened room. Shadows and reflections are soaked in blood red, shimmering phosphorescent green and opaque turquoise blue.
Floating the idea of suspension and creation within these prints, and bathing it in the radiant glow of night vision goggles, Smith probes a simple mystery through these admixtures of color and form, finding creamy white or vividly colored substance in unusual places. The Alabaster series focuses on translucent white light, with hues of pale gold, flesh pink, blue and violet gleaming over edges and shaded surface, while the Albacore series presents vivid carnal colors emerging from darkness.
Each photographic print suggests a projection by the artist into a hidden interior, some clean and open, some darkened and dimly lit. Smith creates views of imagined beauty, allowing the unseen to become real. Using projection techniques, manipulating surfaces, his eye slides over domestic and public interiors. Formed with life and movement, these unusual intrusions open known spaces into fantastic and poetic new places, smooth and transparent or fleshy and potent.
Case One: Alabaster
Left to right and top to bottom