New York Dispatch / April 2022
From Chelsea to Tribeca, the long-awaited Spring season sees the opening of new galleries and stellar solo and group shows …
Jebara x Shao: Objective Gallery New York opening
Until 24th April
‘The New Figuration. Curated by Glenn Adamson’
Friedman Benda Gallery
Until 19th April
‘Aaron Poritz: Big Woods’
Until 24th April
AS TREES BEGIN to blossom throughout New York’s many parks, so too are its collectible design galleries, flush with renewed energy. Though times are still tough, creatives and culture makers are eager to present their latest wares and curatorial endeavours. Established gallerists have seized the moment with headlining-grabbing showcases, while several newcomers have chosen to launch their ventures this season.
Looking ahead, multi-pronged international platform Galerie Philia is set to open its first fixed residence-based venue in New York, while Scandinavian design experts Kim Hostler and Juliet Burrows of their eponymous gallery have set their sights on a new outpost hosting kunsthalle-style solo shows. Further-flung in Downtown Manhattan, Miami-based purveyor Studio Twenty Seven has chosen the sprawling neo-classical Textile Building to set up shop. Though the exact opening dates of these three promising projects have yet to be announced, the industry is waiting eagerly to see what they will have in store. TDE will have more to share in the weeks to come.
Meanwhile, between the established stalwarts of West Chelsea and the reemergence of Tribeca as an affordable gallery hub, New York’s offering of collectible design is increasingly rich and diverse. TDE’s New York correspondent Adrian Madlener highlights one recently-opened gallery concept and a pair of striking exhibitions mounted at two of the city’s most recognised venues.
Jebara x Shao: Objective Gallery New York opening
Helmed by noted Chinese and Lebanese interior designers Chris Shao and Mark Jebara, Objective Gallery has put Shanghai on the map when it comes to the collectible design industry.
Established a few years back with the aim of shaping narrative-based environments that holistically combine art and design, the platform has accrued a long roster of recognised talents from China, Mexico, the US and elsewhere. The duo’s recently opened New York outpost eponymously titled Jebara x Shao highlights much of this eclectic offering. The venture functions as both a standalone gallery and expert fournisseur consultancy.
The opening exhibition – on view until 24th April – features a plethora of contemporary talents, including Charlotte Kingsnorth, J McDonald, TDE contributor Brecht Wright Gander, Brent Warr, Ewe Studio, Will Choui, Ian Felton and Héctor Esrawe. The first of three rooms is dedicated to Asian women designers such as Rosie Li, Eny Lee Parker and Guan Xiao. The overall mise-en-scene is abundant in different materials, styles and applications. Carefully sculpted amoebic forms join more expressive and experimental shapes.
“I think New York is a city that truly embraces diversity,” Shao reflects. “It’s freer from more restrictive European notions of style. There’s an effortless feeling of serenity that harmonises contradictory senses of nature, modernity and imperfection.” Admirers of late-nineteenth-century theorist William Morris and his push to revive craft traditions, the gallerists seek out talents loyal to material and age-old artisanal techniques.
Situated in the West Soho/Hudson Square neighbourhood, Jebara x Shao is positioned at the intersection of galleries clustered in both Chelsea and Tribeca.
‘The New Figuration. Curated by Glenn Adamson’ at Friedman Benda
Tapping into the emerging trend of anthropomorphism within design, noted writer and curator Glenn Adamson has identified seven practitioners leading the charge. ‘The New Figuration’ group show held at Chelsea mainstay Friedman Benda until 19th April puts their respective oeuvres front and centre. For him, the current push toward figurative representation in furniture reflects parallel shifts in the worlds of contemporary painting and sculpture. Faced with the increased disconnection spawned in the short term by the pandemic – but in the longer term the rapid march of technology – collectors and enthusiasts alike are in search of works that better reflect the human body.
For Adamson, the implications of personification in the discipline are intrinsic to the practice of form-making. “Design is inherently figurative,” he says. “After all, chairs have arms, legs, a back and seat. Yet this potential has remained largely implicit in modern or contemporary design.” This exhibition highlights talents that have made this exploration explicit in both direct and abstract ways. By the very nature of its theme, this collective output deals with concurrent issues such as feminism and the often controversial representation of the female form. “Above all, figuration necessarily raises a completely different set of criteria: who an object is meant to represent, as well as what.”
Works on view include gently humorous luminaires by Swiss ceramicist Carmen D’Apollonio, Chris Schanck’s particularly macabre ‘Narcissus’ sculpture, and one of Anna Aagaard Jensen’s ‘Lady Chairs’ – a settee that riffs on the cultural phenomenon of manspreading and suggests a new type of modality in response to gender inequity. Other exhibitors include Saelia Aparicio, Yining Fei, Toomas Toomepuu, and Barbora Žilinskaitė.
‘Aaron Poritz: Big Woods’ at Cristina Grajhales
As an homage to a time and place – that of his childhood spent in the remarkably pristine natural surroundings of Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts – Brooklyn-based designer Aaron Poritz has created a collection of 20 functional sculptures. Fashioned out of bleached ash and ancient oak using both hand and robotic techniques, the new works are either nuanced and refined, or raw and naive.
Overall, the mono-material pieces evoke the simplicity of Danish Modernism and midcentury American master Wharton Esherick, but also celebrate the inherent grain patterns and imperfections of a tree’s erratic formation. None of the works incorporate hardware and they rely on internal joinery. The collection reveals the full scope of Poritz’s foray into this medium. Some are so polished and organic in quality that they take a ceramic quality – the talent’s other chosen medium.
Poritz was first inspired to work with wood after visiting Nicaragua in 2012. He connected with a friend operating a lumber export business centred on making good use of old-growth trees uprooted during 2007’s Hurricane Felix. The designer’s ongoing investigation and intensive mastery of different subtractive processes – carving, charring, stacked lamination and ultimate implementation of this material – is in certain ways, a tribute to nature. In recent years, wood has returned to the fore as a viable material and has even been used to erect skyscrapers. Through an in-depth exploration of form and understanding of material properties, Poritz has made an important contribution to this ever-expanding canon.