Walking through Joshua Wade Smith’s, Tropical Obsructions, seems like it would be similar towalking into Smith's studio. One will see an array of home-made objects like walking sticks, a nerf bat, colored rocks tied onto concrete slabs with bungee cords and drawings that have a similar feel as da Vinci's invention drawings.
The gallery space is small, however, Smith intentionally fills it with various objects and sculptures. These objects are all residues of Smith's performances that are done alone in his studio. The performances focus on the obsession of creating and arranging mundane objects but more so they mirror society's obsession with the athletic sport competition and the heroic defeat of the adventurer's sport. In his new work, Smith deals directly with image accessibility in the digital age. He questions the idea of the sublime through images of bodies of water, sunsets, and beach horizons. Smith uses multiple methods to analyze such concepts.
The most obvious and well established is the sculpture, Dusk to Dawn. This sculpture is a table and a 360-degree ladder that allows him to physically traverse an image of a horizon. To be a part of the work one must be able to demonstrate the strength to climb around it. Although it seems like an absurd task, it references the actions we take on our elliptical, simulated rock climbing, or our stationary bikes. When I look at this piece, I can't help but to parallel it to the commercials I see for the new Le Tour de France indoor cycle that that allows it's user to experience mimicked terrain and imagery of this famous race.
Using materials that are easily attainable, he arranges them to mimic the forms found in his digital images of the sunset, the beach horizon, the distant island and floating devices on water. This revelation is not always immediate, the more time spent with this work the more I see and understand how Smith is imitating these idyllic landscapes. As an example, Smith uses a piece of concrete slab from a construction site that holds up temporary fences. When this slab is put on it's side the holes begin to reference observation binoculars that if one looks through their vision becomes isolated. What you can see is what seems to be an island landscape created by walking canes and the objects in the distance.
My favorite piece is Itinerate, a sculpture made out of a small suitcase that holds a plexi- mounted scene of a beach horizon. Inside this imagery shapes are physically cut out to reveal soft velvet interior. On the ground we see these objects; concrete replicas that one may see while on the shore, such as seashells. It becomes clear that this case is for preserving these replicated objects. The title, Itinerate, refers to a professional duty of a preacher or a sales person whose task it is to travel from place to place. Smith has created a kit for reaching the sublime, as if it is almost necessary to have this product with you to obtain this experience that we want to consume through the imagery.
What is striking about Smith's work is the duality of the home-made and the cold-slick surface that is present in all of his new work. This quality makes the viewer grasp that these are objects that we see and use in our regular routines that we tend to purchase not create. Overall, there is an abundant amount of content in Smith's work. I highly suggest people to not only go to this show, but also spend time with it. The more you explore, the more you will find.