Slouchy Ceramics, Exploded Furniture, and a Design Archive
USA Objects: 2020 at R & Company shows the work of modern and contemporary collectible design.
Photo: Joe Kramm, Courtesy R & Company
From time to time, I’ll share the objects (and the people who make them) that I’m particularly passionate about, as well as notable design news and events.
Of the many things I missed during the pandemic, visiting galleries and exhibits tops the list. And after a year of living on screens, seeing art and design in person made me feel like I was seeing the world again. Here are some recent openings that I appreciated.
I was really looking forward to this show hosted by Glenn Adamson, Evan Snyderman, James Zemaitis and Abby Bangser, which brings the Smithsonian exhibition back to life in 1969. USA objects for our time. The 1969 exhibition, an investigation of the craftsmanship and design of contemporary studios across the country, was a defining post-war exhibition that included work by George Nakashima, Anni Albers and Wendell Castle – for n ‘ to name a few – and also helped launch the careers of JB Blunk and Michelle Oka Doner.
This show includes several of their works, but also significantly expands the list with many contemporary artists and many artists of color. Loved Joyce Lin’s “Skinned Table” – a found object whose veneers were peeled, painted gold, and re-attached about an inch from the surface, like an exploded diagram. During this time, I could stare at Katie Stout’s “Fruit Lady Floor Lamp” (which is exactly, as the name suggests, a female figure made of ceramic fruit) for hours and never get bored. And don’t miss Doyle Lane’s Tiny Weed Pots, a potter who was included in the original exhibit. The accompanying catalog, published by Monacelli Press, is the one I will keep in my library. Closed in July 2021.
I’m always enthusiastic about the art shows that the Egg Collective design studio – founded by three women with backgrounds in architecture, sculpture and fine carpentry – holds in its showroom in Tribeca. The current show, organized by Tealia Ellis Ritter, is called “Support Systems”, which is intended as a “pun on the specific need for support that artists and society so deeply felt during the pandemic”. It includes the meticulous porcelain chainmail that Taylor kibby transforms into sculptures, ranging from soft ceramics that seem as hard as metal to pieces that seem as soft as textile weaves. Closes April 16.
Photo: Gregory Carideo / Courtesy of Larrie
Walk inside Kristen Wentrcek and Andrew Zebulon‘s show, I felt like I walked around a mad scientist’s lab, which isn’t too far removed from how the two work: they apply a material used in a context to a other and push it to its limit, locking up a found industrialist. urethane materials or stuffing them with fur. They sourced materials for the show from orthodontic and drug suppliers, garden stores, eBay, and hardware stores. “We feel that a material, texture or fragrance can trigger reactions without you necessarily knowing where they come from or why,” Wentrcek and Zebulon explain.
Over the years, Wentrcek and Zebulon have evolved between the worlds of furniture design, functional works of art and art. So it’s exciting to see them work in the context of an immersive show that contains all of these perspectives. Closed on May 11.
It’s crazy how Brian Donnelly (aka KAWS) went from tagging bus shelters ads in secret to creating 130 foot inflatable sculptures that tourists line up to see, through a 25-year-old arch staged in one show. It feels like the point of it all is really the gift shop – which is full of all kinds of merchandise, from limited edition toys and clothing to collectable plates, books, etc., and is placed in a gallery in booming. But also that the artistic establishment is finally taking it seriously, not just as an art market sensation. Of all the things in the survey, I enjoyed looking the most in the early KAWS sketchbooks. I got to see the evolution of his experiences with lettering, some of his earliest graffiti that only exists in his personal photographs, and how he invented his tag – all before he became famous. Closed on September 5th.
This “Everyone, About Everyone, Everyone Created Virtual Archive” is one of my recent favorite Instagrams. This month he shares the work of black designers like Reynold Ruffins, a Push Pin partner (he illustrated a very heartwarming 1976 cover for Sesame Street magazine featuring Roosevelt Franklin drawing “I love you” Valentine’s); Pedro Bell, a designer who worked on the album covers for Funkadelic; and Lisa Lyons, Dorothy Zellner and Ruth Howard, the creators of the Black Panther Party logo.