In the case of Russell Smith's art, the old dictum that things get better with age is cleverly proven true. Smith embodies the renaissance type artist that I often associate with the Western United States. When I first became aware of his work around 15 years ago he had already accumulated a vast experience in both art and object making. Originally from Missoula Montana, a place that has historically hosted crossovers of traditions and ideas, the artist fluidly moves between mediums and tools of expression. In his own words words, from the Summer 2014 issue of Anvil's Ring published by the Artist-Blacksmith's Association of North America (ABANA):
" In 1975 Missoula, Montana I was working in a factory feeding a finger jointer machine. The counterculture was on the move. America was hungry for all manner of hand-made stuff and craft fairs were popping up everywhere. In an impulse of courage, I quit the sawmill, bought an acetylene torch and for the next ten years made a living -of sorts-, selling metal art in street shows. By 1985, the craft market had withered and I got a day job. Artwork went from being my livelihood to a serious hobby. Mechanical toys became my passion. "
Now the quintessential Venice, California based artist, Russell Smith's current body of work reflects a level of inquiry and enthusiasm that might soar under the radar of both Hollywood and social media. One reason for this is that the things of beauty and craft he creates takes time. In the heat of the forge, Smith achieves a timelessness that requires demanding stewardship. The gears and bones, the processes and alchemical engineering, accumulate over time, and as expected, the art is a wonder to behold. Using brilliantly engineered antique engines to create both random and rhythmic spectacle, Smith's sculptures have a tactile and recognizable patina. These gears and levers make sense, a fine craftsmanship that allies itself with exquisite cultural artifacts.
His un-motorized but nonetheless animated, Sculptural Pet is a beautifully jointed gorilla that can be posed and perched almost anywhere. It's unlocked and open cage suggests that often, 'imprisonment is an inside job,' while other details create dialogues about love and enlightment. All Smith's sculptures exude a search for both meaning and craft; his next exhibit is scheduled at The Gallery of Functional Art at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, California.
The Russell Smith channel on You tube provides fans with narratives and live shots of his work wound up and out for a stroll displaying only a glimpse of the wizardry that deserves to be experienced in person.