New York Dispatch: March 2021
Adrian Madlener’s roundup of in-person spring shows.
WITH COVID-19 statistics taking a dramatic dive, New Yorkers are eager to get out, enjoy the warmer weather and embrace the increasingly relaxed restrictions. Collectible design galleries are putting their best foot forward with physical, appointment-based exhibitions that tackle complex topics, honour unsung heroes and entice even the most satiated of collectors with eclectic delight. The Design Edit has picked out a few highlights from within the city and its environs.
Jonathan Trayte: MelonMelonTangerine
Seizing the moment, Jonathan Trayte spent a good chunk of the pandemic on a 2,000 mile-long road trip across the western United States. This rite of passage brought the British designer into contact with vastly different environments – eventually informing his new MelonMelonTangerine collection of satirically surreal still-lifes and stand-alone objects.
These pop art-esque combinations – shaggy luminaires, swinging chairs, and cantilevered beds – riff on how we understand and use our natural resources. The hints of sedimentary rock, lichens, silver cholla cacti and prickly pear fruits that Trayte conjures from nebulous memories of the Joshua Tree desert in California, translate into amorphous yet discernibly synthetic sculptures.
The designer cleverly juxtaposes suggestions of natural formation with motifs from product packaging and advertising ephemera to poke fun at the artifice of rampant consumerism. Placed against the backdrop of Friedman Benda’s Chelsea white cube and on view until 13th March, this series is a cacophonous melding of complex iconographies, roughly hewn forms, meticulously crafted materials and surprisingly identifiable furniture typologies. This slightly dystopian yet exuberant drug trip jostles between references to Lost in Las Vegas and Andrea Branzi’s epochal ‘Animali Domestici’ collection.
“Colour is so important as a means of persuasion: persuading people to consume in particular kinds of ways, or by appealing to specific social groups,” Trayte explains. “I create synthetic painted veneers and compositions of materials that either reflect or distort this language; they’re like skins of paint or textures that create a kind of chameleon appearance.” This immersive exhibition rings in the spring season like an otherworldly botanical garden.
Challenging the limits of material in an entirely different way are noted artists Steven Haulenbeek, Ben Medansky, Brian Thoreen, VISSIO, Stephen Somple and Taylor Kibby. For all these American talents, their intensive investigation of and experimentation with matter is the conceptual foundation of their work. A new exhibition at Tribeca showroom and gallery Egg Collective – an illustrious furniture studio in its own right – brings together works by these various practices in an elegant and captivating domestic mise-en-scene. The Support Systems show– on view until 16th April – reveals how a mastery of material and demonstrative dexterity can enable the expression of universal sentiments like playfulness, melancholy and trauma. Some of the work even goes so far as to explore the ever-elusive human form.
“Our current exhibition formally coalesced around the framework that material provides for the creative impulse,” photographer and the show’s curator Tealia Ellis Ritter explains. “But its title is also a play on words, referencing the specific need of support that both artists and society have felt so deeply during the pandemic.” With these creatives working in such unconventional ways, it’s clear that their reliance on collaboration is essential, as well as their unfettered conviction in what they’re accomplishing.
Collective practice VISSIO’s handblown glass ‘Exquisite Corpse M-12’ light enters into dialogue with Taylor Kibby’s embroidery thread and porcelain ‘To adhere, to separate’ piece and Stephen Somple’s ‘Untitled’ graphic canvas. In another part of the gallery, Steven Haulenbeek’s ‘RBS Webcoat Lamp’ – a form created by intuitively carving resin-bonded bronze-casting sand – plays well with Ben Medansky’s Brutalist-inspired ‘Green Disco’ wall piece.
Bodil Manz stands apart in the world of ceramics by creating ultra-thin egg-shell porcelain vessels in plaster moulds that undergo multiple firings. The renowned Danish artist is currently exhibiting at Greenwich Village gallery Hostler Burrows with a collection of recent works that exemplify her career-defining use of geometric abstraction.
Reminiscent of Russian Suprematism, Josef Albers’s mastered square, and Morandi’s still lifes – works by the latter two are currently on view at David Zwirner’s main gallery in Chelsea – Manz’s cylindrical forms extract and distil sublime nuances of the seemingly mundane. “Focusing and concentrating on a single object such as a sphere, a square, a cylinder, a cup – fundamentally something quite ordinary, the stuff of everyday life – [seems] indeed almost banal,” Manz explains. “But during the process, we discover fresh aspects, and suddenly ‘the ordinary’ becomes a new experience.”
Manz is particularly drawn to the medium because of the difficulties it presents. Her collective output – originally more utilitarian, but now more experimental – demonstrates an ability to overcome these challenges and develop original solutions. Her careful compositions result from a meditative approach in which patterns are drafted on paper and then translated into sculptural forms using precise moulds and pouring techniques. Later on, she applies bold Mondrian-esque fields of colour to these multi-dimensional objects. At times, Manz relinquishes control and allows the process to determine the outcome. As evident in this solo show – on view until 19th March – no two works are the same.
Exhibition the Barn
With so many New York-based collectors having left the city to take up year-round residence in nearby resort areas like The Hamptons, major art galleries like Hauser & Wirth, Lisson, and Pace have also put down roots here. A handful of collectible design galleries have followed this lead. Some established partnerships with local businesses to display their wares, while others set up their own outposts. At the forefront of this movement is Elena Frampton, the founder of the eponymous interior design practice and art advisory Frampton Co. Transforming her Bridgehampton office – a converted barn – into a gallery space was an ingenious concept first implemented before the pandemic. Hosting a show in what would typically be the off-season was something entirely new.
“This is our first-ever winter show at Exhibition The Barn,” Frampton explains. “It reflects how our sense of place has changed this past year. I sought warmth and to create a vibrant contrast to what we’ve all been through. In our curation, we are relishing the contradictions of this moment.”
Frampton’s maximalist approach to interior design has taken this wealthy enclave by storm, so it’s no wonder that this exhibition should reflect a similar spirit. Presented in collaboration with Friedman Benda and on view through April, The Winter Show brings together a diverse group of artists, photographers, designers, and ceramicists within a theatrical, marigold-draped setting. Nick Missel’s silicone, rubber, and foam ‘Flotsam’ sculpture is shown alongside the rolled-felt and metal-framed ‘Sushi IV’ chair by Estudio Campana, while photographs of ‘Joshua Tree’ by Jesse Frohman hang above. With a predominance of curvilinear forms, texture and bold colours, this eclectic showcase also displays Frampton Co’s proprietary ‘F Collection’ sofas and desks.