New York Dispatch / January 2022
Four diverse must-see shows – from radical designers and thinkers of the 20th century, to some of our contemporary torch bearers.
IT’S BEEN ALMOST two years since the Covid-19 first arrived in New York, but through it all the city’s art and design galleries have persevered. Rapidly adapting to virtual and timed entry formats, these platforms have taken the challenges of the paradigm-shifting health crisis in their stride. Most are hoping for a return to physical events – those rousing openings, spirited dinners and captivating talks – in early spring, if everything goes to plan.
The good news is that the number of new cases in widely vaccinated New York has drastically decreased over the past few weeks. Although many galleries have opted out of heralding in the new year with “First Thursday” openings this month, saving their blockbuster showcases for later in the year, a select few have seized the moment to step into the limelight. The Design Edit’s New York correspondent Adrian Madlener highlights four diverse exhibitions drawing in an eager design audience, which thrives on physical interaction and engagement with the material.
‘Angels’, Cooler Gallery
18th January – 18th March
New York and Eindhoven-based designer François Chambard has been pushing the limits of material, form, and technology since first coming on to the scene in 2004. Through his studio UM Projects (User and Maker), the seasoned talent navigates between the realms of function and fiction. His incredibly-well crafted furnishings and installations take on a life and engender a level of interactivity all their own.
The RISD and Design Academy Eindhoven-trained experimentalist’s latest venture is an exploration of moulds and the role they play within the creative process. Instead of treating these essential elements as a means to an end – tools that allow us to achieve different outcomes – the designer has chosen to address them as stand-alone, self-generative objects that carry their own identity and unique characteristics. The iterative works currently on view as part of the Angels exhibition at Brooklyn’s Cooler Gallery were engineered using repurposed pieces of discarded wood and metal.
According to Chambard, the strikingly architectonic designs should spark visual enjoyment both when assembled and when their various interlocking elements are disassembled. The standalone components carry as much aesthetic rigour. The moulds also suggest the forms they might imprint, should the voids they enclose be filled with liquid material.
‘Kate Millett, Fantasy Furniture 1967’, Salon 94 Design
19th January – 5th March
Salon 94 Design has been actively expanding its already impressive roster of talents and seeking out the works of unsung heroes. At Design Miami/ in December, the gallery revealed stunning metal works by forgotten polymath Gloria Kisch that had just been unearthed in her Long Island studio. Building on Salon 94’s well established art programme, the ever-evolving design platform has just opened a show dedicated to the anthropomorphic, furniture-like sculptures of the late feminist and Fluxus artist Kate Millett. Arranged together for the first time in fifty years, the various personified pieces stemmed from her exploration of domesticity and critique of conventional family structures.
Exhibition view, ‘Fantasy Furniture 1967’
COURTESY: Salon 94 Design
“You have to be a little patient if you’re an artist. People don’t always get you the first time.”
Exhibition view, ‘Fantasy Furniture 1967’
COURTESY: Salon 94 Design
“To be a rebel is not to be a revolutionary. It is more often by a way of spinning one’s wheels deeper in sand”
Assembled from hand-carved wood elements, mattress-ticked upholstery and found objects, the cabinets, tables, simulated beds, and non-functional pianos playfully incorporate human-like heads, legs, and feet. The inclusion of two sets of these appendages in a few of the pieces pokes fun at the rigid construct of heterosexual partnering. Many of these issues were later addressed in her seminal 1970 treatise Sexual Politics. Joining this cast of characters, last displayed together at the historic Judson Gallery in 1967, are rare works on paper she created from 1976–1980.
‘Half Baked’, Tchotchke Gallery
11th – 31st January
Nascent New York-based digital platform Tchotchke Gallery describes itself as a sagacious environment to find, explore and intrigue. Catering to novice and experienced collectors, it represents a slew of young, experimental artists and craftspeople. Presenting an eclectic array of expressive ceramics by promising up-and-comers, Tchotchke Gallery positioned the current ‘Half Baked’ exhibition as its first-ever sculpture focus. Paying homage to the unstable and unpredictable nature of the medium – and also a moniker of the times we’re living in – the survey highlights designers that take risks in their respective practices.
“We were recently forced to modify our exhibition schedule due to the surge in Omicron cases in New York City, so we decided to present local ceramic artists as we wanted to take on something both challenging and fresh,” said Tchotchke Gallery co-founder Danielle Dewar. It should be noted that ceramics were all the rage at Design Miami/ in December and that exhibitor Ryan Flores’s works also featured as part of Jeffrey Deitch Gallery’s blockbuster booth. While Sarah Allwine’s ‘One Hundred and One and Two Dog Figurines’ (2022) stem from her interest in popular culture’s appropriation of functional forms, Ak Jansen’s ‘Stacey’ totem reflects his ongoing personal exploration of queerness within the realms of poetry and political discourse. Other exhibitors include Jen Dwyer, Alli Gelles, Isolina Minjeong Alva and Didi Rojas.
max bill and georges vantongerloo crossover, Hauser & Wirth
27th January – 26th March
Drawn together by their implicit understanding of mathematical principles and modern scientific theories – but also beauty and intuition – contemporaries Max Bill and Georges Vantongerloo left an indelible mark on 20th century art, especially minimalism. A new show at Hauser & Wirth’s East 69th Street outpost seeks to unveil the two European masters’ ongoing exchange. A comprehensive selection of paintings and sculptures, some never seen in the United States before, have been paired to reveal the artists’ shared interests and impact on each other. On view are Bill’s colour-blocked canvases and Vantongerloo’s golden ratio-inspired geometric compositions, coded in equally bold primary hues.
While Bill was a faithful discipline of the Bauhaus – principles he held onto his entire life and disseminated widely – Vantongerloo helped shape the De Stijl movement in the Netherlands. The two first met in 1935 and began a lifelong friendship. An extensive correspondence reveals how one pushed the other into making some of his most important and impactful breakthroughs, and vice versa. This retrospective surveys the progression of each artist’s career and reception in the United States. Having influenced critical talents like Donald Judd, Andy Warhol and Ellsworth Kelly at different periods of their respective careers, Bill and Vantongerloo were constantly in search of the infinite.