Inna Babaeva: This Time Tomorrow

Installation view: Inna Babaeva: This Time Tomorrow at Underdonk

Babaeva’s show at Underdonk presents a welcome respite from days spent indoors abstaining from seeing aesthetic objects in person. In this succinct grouping of works, she combines a variety of materials and objects that, paired with the gallery’s white-painted floor and spare lighting, produce a sense of visual and aesthetic bliss.

When one enters the gallery, one is immediately immersed in the installation. The only light entering the room comes from the gallery’s street-facing windows. The light softly illuminates the objects occupying the space. A collection of objects lines the wall opposite the entrance. Other groupings are found on the floor at the rear and far right corner of the gallery. A lone grouping of pomegranates rests on a Plexi shelf installed on the wall near the front.

(Detail) Tired of waiting, blown glass, plastic crates, Plexiglas boxes, 60 x 28 x 18 inches, 2021

Hand-blown pink and whitish glass baubles that are spherical and ovular in shape are placed on top and draping over Plexi boxes. In some cases, they are placed inside the boxes like vitrines. Others are held up by metal chemical lab stands. White, furry spheres are intermixed with the glass and plastic, with a few pomegranates intersperse. The fruit is dark ruby red, whole, and sometimes half-devoured. Pedestals, made of white plastic crates prop up the vitrines. In one work, Babaeva has placed her objects inside of the crate.

Installation view: Inna Babaeva: This Time Tomorrow at Underdonk

A feeling of lightness permeates through the show. The hand-blown glass resembles balloons filled with air; remaining pliable and droopy at the same time. The clear Plexi and white plastic crates offer transparency, allowing the viewer to see inside and through the objects. The white, furry objects keep up this feeling of lightness as well, as soft textural forms riffing off the glass; speaking the same formal language in another material.

See my friends, blown glass, Plexiglas boxes, pomegranates, 34 x 28 x 15 inches, 2021

In the piece See my friends, an accumulation of Babaeva’s material and formal concerns appears encapsulated. Her glass spheres appear both within and on top of the Plexi boxes along with the inclusion of pomegranates, with the whole arrangement made mobile by being placed on rolling-wheel casters. The fruit brings an organic element that is alluded to by the malleable glass into direct focus, offering yet another visual taxonomy for the viewer to consider. The matte fruit, like the furry spheres, compliments and contrasts the other shiny, slick surfaces. If the lighter-than-air sense given off by the glass and plastic comes off as being somewhat dreamy, these other objects offer a sense of grounding, a tactile counterpoint to the hazy atmosphere of the show.

Despite the variance of material and manufacture on display, Babaeva’s sense for balancing several aesthetic and conceptual concerns comes across quite naturally. The hand-made glass sits comfortably alongside everything that is ready-made. Synthetics complement the organic. What unifies the objects in the show is how they are composed both as discreet objects as well as within the installation. The show demonstrates how the qualities of things—not just the objects themselves—can be treated like sculptural materials. The treatment of the floor and the natural light entering the space play a role in this sense as well. If the classical concept of sculpture is about experiencing an object in the round, the contemporary concern seems to be about experiencing sculpture in terms of the space that contains it. Here, Babaeva’s approach seems to go one step beyond by considering the space, and what is in it, as somewhat of an object.