Monday, March 5, 2012

Inna Babaeva

I always forget how accessible and charming Long Island City is. Socrates, PS 1, a pint at the LIC bar and all this just across the kosciuszko Bridge. I headed that way the other day to visit with artist Inna Babaeva. Her studio is just off Vernon Ave -- convenient. Up a few flights and down a long hallway we came to her space, our voices echoing with the emptiness of the corridor. It was spooky-cool in there. Inna's studio opens up to quite an amazing view of Manhattan. Well, as she explained, until a high rise was built in front of her view of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. I was still impressed. There were quite a few new pieces in the works the day I was there, but our initial conversation was about the pure and beautiful functions of a simple magnet. Inna explained to me the many uses of this secret tool for her; from insuring an efficient breakdown, to making a sleek install in a high place possible, to invisibly attaching the tricked-out features that she so often adds to her sculptures. Her face lit up with excitement in her very special Inna way as she showed me the incredible strength of one of her magnets.
With two very different and equally realized types of work in Inna's studio, I was struck by the electric push and pull within her practice itself. At one end of the spectrum she has made alarmingly florescent orb-like structures out of spray foam that, with their curious relationship to the biological, almost seem to give off a life like pulse. These pieces are often juxtaposed with hard surfaced objects: be it a shiny metal bucket, a small plexi-glass vitrine, or a sharply angled, light reflective crystal ball. The color that this spray foam receives, in its multi-layered technique, is so well planned out it can give the object the appearance of having deep crevices, almost reminiscent of a distant planet's surface. In order to gain this effect, Inna explained that she might first spray paint the blob with lighter, brighter colors, then go darker in value, then lighter once again. A shocking pink broke through the surface of one of the works as it dangled new-age crystal teardrops above the bucket bellow.

And the other work in her practice uses the same hyper-bright spectrum of color, but much different structural form. Immediately, I related these works to the architecture found just outside the studio window, with their slick reflective surfaces that matched seamlessly with the simple wood often used at the beginning of a buildings construction. I also enjoyed her obvious obsession with the very seductive qualities of Canal Plastics, imagining her lost in the isles excited by her newest plastic find. Several of these perfectly-crafted wooden frames might later be hinged together to form a multifaceted accordioned shape, able to grasp the wall that rounds a corner or divide the length of a room, once installed. Or maybe she will leave them unhinged, leaning inwards, huddled together like a translucent cityscape. Not to be overlooked are the appendage-like add-ons found here and there that give them a sly familiarity, begging the question "how does that function?"A few of the frames had wheels at their tops. It made me want to flip them upside down and give them a spin. The viewers' imagination in the structures' future uses made for a nicely interactive moment.

Inna and I had lots of topics to hit, with our beers and art materials in hand. She shared with me the journey leading up to her move to NYC,  her love of collection, from shells to chairs, and her often humorous and serendipitous experiences of apartment hunting. She is a fabulous story teller and with each story comes a gentle look at life in all its bizarre shapes and sizes. I am jazzed to see these pieces complete, and equally jazzed to have spent the day in sweet Inna's studio. To check out more go to