A thought-provoking collection of contemporary collectible design comes to Los Angeles, inspired by the concept of Archeofuturism.
UTA Artist Space & Carpenters Workshop Gallery, LA
11th October – 16th November 2019
THE BARRIERS BETWEEN art and design have been coming down for a while, but that doesn’t mean that all art buyers are actively looking at design … or even know where to look for it. A provocative new exhibition in Los Angeles is making it easy for them – showcasing a selection of contemporary art-furniture and objects by 26 marquee-name designers in a prominent Beverly Hills art gallery. ‘Dark Fantasy’, jointly presented by United Talent Agency (UTA) Artist Space and Carpenters Workshop Gallery, is a fortuitous opportunity for both organisations: the art venue can try out a new category and the design gallery can broaden its exposure in the LA market – many of the 1,000-plus attendees at the opening were probably seeing these artists for the first time.
According to Ashlee Harrison, Director, USA for Carpenters Workshop, the idea of a Los Angeles project has been in the works for several years, and the collaboration developed after she and UTA gallery director Zuzanna Ciolek met during Design Miami last year. Growing out of the idea that art and design could provide a respite from the stresses of contemporary life, ‘Dark Fantasy’ was inspired by the concept of ‘Archeofuturism’, in which forms of the past are excavated to shape the future of design. It was curated by Harrison and independent curator Natalie Kovacs and presents 44 unique or limited-edition pieces by designers from Carpenters Workshop gallery’s program – including Wendell Castle, the Campana and Verhoeven Brothers, Maarten Baas, Ingrid Donat, Virgil Abloh and Studio Job. All were made within the past decade, and illustrate a variety of fabricating techniques in materials including wood, metals, leather, glass, ceramic and fibre. The exhibition proposes to show how artists respond to the issues of the day by, in the words of the exhibition essay by curator Natalie Kovacs, “channelling baroque craftsmanship of bygone eras far into the future to create something unique.” The selected works were chosen as archetypes of the craving to create luxury objects.
Flanking the entrance to the gallery, a pair of Wendell Castle’s massive seating pieces (one bronze, one concrete) stand opposite a curvy reclining bronze figure by Atelier Van Lieshout. Inside, the works are arranged in no specific order, in an array that highlights the variety of forms and techniques, from the sleek sophistication of the Verhoeven Twins’s massive polished-steel ‘Lectori Salutem Desk’ to the irregular surfaces of Roger Herman’s ceramics, the intricately-detailed surface of Ingrid Donat’s bronze ‘Commode Galuchat’, or the touchable surface of Aldo Baker’s pert persimmon Urushi stool. The pieces are deployed attractively around the high-ceilinged gallery, inviting leisurely viewing, contact and contemplation as the visitor moves through the space.
Several works will be familiar to design followers, like the brass version of Maarten Baas’s celebrated clock with a filmed performer moving on its face to indicate changing time, Vincent Dubourg’s “exploding” ‘Buffet Nouvelle Zelande’, Sebastian Brajkovic’s curling ‘Fibonacci’ seat or Nacho Carbonell’s airy bronze-mesh lights, eight of which are shown in a room by themselves. As a coda to the exhibition, a black-walled space showcases a site-specific installation by Studio Drift: a unique version of its award-winning ‘Fragile Future’ light sculpture, in which dandelion seeds are hand-picked and glued to dozens of hanging LED lights, fusing nature and technology to mesmerising effect.
For the arts-conscious LA market, reputed to be somewhat more adventurous and whimsical in taste than its East Coast counterpart, there are ample temptations, though as the exhibition title indicates, most of the works, even by the usually-witty Campana brothers, are somewhat serious in tone. Does the exhibition, as curator Ashlee Harrison suggests, “create new realities and suspend disbelief?” That remains to be seen, but it does offer considerable aesthetic pleasures, and that is an accomplishment in itself. And at prices ranging from a modest $1,000 to a substantial $480,000, it offers ample options for acquisition.
UTA Artist Space, designed by Ai Weiwei, is a short drive from Los Angeles’s elite Rodeo Drive shopping district. It was opened three years ago about by UTA as part of its effort to expand its range of activities, by providing a venue for showcasing new work by international artists. ‘Dark Fantasy’ is its first show of design, and will remain on view through until 16th November.