By: Christina Tian Qu, Seraphin Gallery Intern
Edited By: Alyssa Laverda, Associate Director, Seraphin Gallery
Sculptor, Christopher Smith’s Perfectly Naked has been selected to join the burgeoning art collection of design emeritus, Wayne Braun’s new house in Houston’s Museum District.
Perfectly Naked is composed of 14 aluminum filled resin sculptures each 18 inches tall, mounted to steel shelves. They are placed in an airy stairway, illuminated by sunlight streaming in through an open window. The cream-colored flesh of these resin sculptures evoke larger antique marble nudes, but the steel shelves which they rest upon create modern edge. Attached to the wall in undulating rows, Smith’s series adds to the elegant yet minimalist aesthetic of Braun’s interior design.
Wayne Braun is the design emeritus of PDR, a Houston design and interior architecture firm. Braun’s attraction to construction led him to design award winning office furniture. He explains that he “saw furniture as miniature architecture,” due to its three-dimensionality. His love of wood working and thoughtful design can be felt throughout the carefully curated pieces of mid-century furniture and modern art within his home. Braun personally designed the architecture and interior of his house, which was completed in 2013, stating the influence of internationally renowned architects such as Le Corbusier, Gwathmey Siegel, and Richard Meier. The house’s open interior spaces allow for ample light, a key feature that Braun emphasizes in order to provide for a smooth transition between the indoor and outdoor expanses.
Within this streamlined and atmospheric space, Braun has curated an intimate collection of various contemporary artworks that speak to his personality and design sensibilities. It is within this bright and creative environment that Perfectly Naked is housed. Previously exhibited at the Tampa Museum of Art, Smith’s series of small sculptures provide a modern approach to the study of the human body. Although each sculptural form is reminiscent of the stoic and monumental sculptures of classical style, their arrangements and poses depict modern variations of individual physical and emotional states.
Arranged in a wave-like row, each piece stands isolated within the confines of its steel shelf yet, despite this constraint, each figure appears to be in conversation with its brother and sister sculptures. The connection and relationship between each part of the work create a “social grouping” of resin bodies, suggesting a mosaic of human conditions, displayed in its rawest form.
Within Perfectly Naked, both male and female figures are displayed --some stand confrontational with arms crossed and feet apart. Others appear demure, lost in private contemplation with head bowed and arms clasped. Still others are standing in profile, while their neighbors recline languidly against the steel boundary. There is one who has her back turned towards us, seemingly unaware that she is privy to our gaze-- completing this 360 view in closed and detailed form. A range of private and public sentiments are enacted by these small figures, creating a cascade of body language that is blatantly genuine, open, and honest.
While each nude figure is placed on a small pedestal, raised upon Braun’s wall for the delectation of our gaze, they seem to exist in a world of their own, unconscious and unabashed of their display. Perfectly Naked is presented to us as a series of collectible “figurines,” miniature replicas of what could be larger works, yet these diminutive bodies emanate independence as well as community. Each figure’s abandoned gaze, their bodies thoroughly engrossed in states of repose and tension, demands recognition. In a group, these forms stand in solidarity around their “perfect nakedness,” forming a confident identity of human vulnerabilities, ordinarities, and triumphs.
*Perfectly Naked is available for sale at Seraphin Gallery as a set or as individual pieces.
Christopher Smith’s study of the human figure is founded in the traditions of statue making. Drawing inspiration from ancient forms, Smith also creates larger sculptural works that retain the same dynamic and dignified ambience as the Perfectly Naked series.
Seraphin Gallery’s sculpture garden houses another one of these larger works – 4PM – a sculptural piece cast from glass fiber reinforced cement. 4PM is consisted of a group of four nude female figures, standing against a wall. Their bodies brace against each other as their arms are conjoined in a cordial loop. An energy can be traced from each figure to the next via the linkages formed by their joined appendages. A strong sense of solidarity is felt-- akin to that in Perfectly Naked.
The four female nudes can be separated into two pairings. The group on the left comprises of the tallest figure with her body in profile. She leans her back against the hip and outstretched shoulder of her partner. The group on the right shows two female figures in degrees of contrapposto, their hips pushing against each other while they gaze in separate directions. The placement of their arms creates a “v” shaped cradle, echoing the semi-circular form created by the grouping of their bodies. The duet couples are joined like a puzzle piece by connecting comfort. The two central figures stretch out their arms, linking each other by the shoulders, and their bodies learn towards the center, forming an archway of limbs and hips.
This larger work demonstrates Christopher Smith’s dexterity in shifting between smaller, more intimate castings and large scale figures, more monumental model. Transitioning between the delicate subtleties created in Perfectly Naked towards a more expansive space in 4PM, Smith enchants us with candid nude figures that espouse, and challenge, the orthodox tradition of sculpting the human body. The body that Smith presents us not only highlights the brilliance of its physical form, but also celebrates the display of the timeless nude-- including its pensive and pervasive qualities. Perfectly Naked and 4PM are vivid examples of the revival and reworking of the classic nude sculpture and the new possibilities open for its rediscovery.