In Brooklyn on a rainy night, my feet sloshing along the sidewalks, a newly bought hat with a large brim acting as a visor so that I could see through my fogged up glasses, walking in a city unused to quiet and quite beautiful with the reflecting lights breaking the silence - I visited Soapbox Gallery to see a “pop-up” exhibition of ARTIST IN THE WORLD - NEVER ENDING ART TRIP. Andre Smits the itinerant, international artist who photographs artists in their studios ONLY from the back - so that the working space becomes the key focus. Yet we all know that you can turn artists on their sides, upside down, even inside out - and the places they work will reflect something about who they are and their particular and often eccentric choices and tastes.
I am a voyeur (of sorts) - I love blinking/spying on other people’s worlds, finding individuals surprisingly intriguing - once I get past my own personal prejudices - which either dissolve or are modified - once I get to know more about a person through any channel - and viewing their work site is one of them. I feel many other people share this curiosity and that is what makes Andre Smits photographs seductively irresistible. He is photographing the “laboratory” where experimentation, dreams, disappointments, intense struggle and passionate creation occurs.
Andre Smits also “maps” a visual diary of his sojourns - in this case 2014 NYC and its environs, but he has traveled to China, Germany, Belgium, Russia, etc. leaving his home base in the Netherlands to restlessly explore outside his own country. Large black and white wall drawings, “home tattoos” taken from sources derived from doodles on snippets of papers which he always carries with him - ball point pen in hand - making the connections between artists that he has visited each day of the year. The form the wall paintings take vary - sometimes he depicts images of some of the works he has encountered, but they are always contained within the staccato outline of the tubular networks meandering like cellular technology snaking along the wall with the names of the artists illustrated - those that he photographed during this particular period - forming patterns that are visually oscillating. We sense the passing of time in the wall pieces beginning with the administrative aspect to Smits’ process - phone calls, setting up meetings, traveling to and from the sites giving us a sense of time made palpable.
In the exhibition at Soapbox Gallery, Andre Smits invited Elise Tak to collaborate with him; Elise who included her startlingly graphic and diverse portraits of “fictional actors” who have undeniable presence. She creates her own universe of fabricated imaginary actors, complete with screenplays, plots and posters “…visionary film stills and posters present the audience with chimerical scenes from non-existing films…” The juxtaposition of her “constructed,” imaginary figures floating among the outlined names of “actual artists” made me think about the ephemeral nature of art and how our ties to one another through the future and the past have a delicate beauty that is fragile and transient.