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Exhibitions

New York Dispatch / July & August 2022

Organic maximalism and striking juxtapositions command attention in the summer shows – don't miss these three …

Salon 94 Design (S94D): ‘Donald Judd Library Stool 42 and Takuro Kuwata Cups’
Until 16th July

Cristina Grajales: ‘Via Lactea’
Until 9th September

Rockefeller Center: Emily Mullin
Until 5th September

By Adrian Madlener / 13th July 2022
Exhibition view, ‘Via Lactea’, at Cristina Grajales COURTESY: Cristina Grajales / PHOTOGRAPH: Jason Muhlberger

Exhibition view, ‘Via Lactea’, at Cristina Grajales
COURTESY: Cristina Grajales / PHOTOGRAPH: Jason Muhlberger

THE CROWDS MAY be in The Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard or elsewhere, but even a more placid New York is still flush with captivating cultural offerings. Among a slew of special museum exhibitions and other shows are gallery presentations that champion unlikely pairings, as well as format-defying showcases that enliven historic sites. These three exhibitions put trendy florals, biophilia and organic maximalism front and centre.

Exhibition view, Emily Mullin at Rockerfeller Center COURTESY: Emily Mullin / PHOTOGRAPH: Tony Mullin

Exhibition view, Emily Mullin at Rockerfeller Center
COURTESY: Emily Mullin / PHOTOGRAPH: Tony Mullin

Salon 94 Design (S94D): Donald Judd Library Stool 42’s and Takuro Kuwata Cups
“I am often asked if the furniture is art, since almost ten years ago some artists made art that was also furniture,” Donald Judd wrote in his seminal 1993 book It’s Hard To Find A Good Lamp. “The furniture is furniture and is only art in that architecture, ceramics, textiles and many things are art.” The famous polymath’s lasting impact on both fields is immeasurable. His hyper-minimalist sculptural practice demonstrated how pared-back forms and fundamental compositions could transcend disciplinary boundaries.

Denoting one of his first official forays into furniture design, Judd’s 1980 ‘Library Stool 42’ was purpose-built for The Block, his Marfa, Texas, compound containing an extensive resource library. This repository of tomes incorporated an exhaustive selection of books surveying pre-twentieth-century art, architecture, history and literature. Joining early iterations of the ‘Library Table 13’ and ‘Library Bed 15’ designs, ‘Library Stool 42’ was assembled using affordable materials and to serve a clear, if not fluid, set of functions.

To debut a limited run of recently crafted yellow pine reproductions – developed in partnership with Donald Judd Furniture’s In-Stock programme – S49D also chose to display new cup designs by Japanese talent Takuro Kuwata. The mise en scène is not just a striking juxtaposition but also an expression of Judd’s wide-reaching sources of inspiration. Carefully staged within the stark post-industrial backdrop of the gallery’s Freeman Alley outpost, the stools serve as pedestals for the ceramic wares.

Donald Judd, ‘Library Stool 42’, 1980, produced 2021 COURTESY: Salon 94 Design

Donald Judd, ‘Library Stool 42’, 1980, produced 2021
COURTESY: Salon 94 Design

Kuwata’s series of 14 or so graphical vessels are a contemporary take on the traditional yunomi tea cup. While ‘oyu’ means ‘hot water’, ‘nomu’ means ‘to drink’. The works were created using a slip-casting mould process and individually applied with gold and platinum seal Shino glazes. Like Judd’s iterative ‘Library Stool 42’, each cup comes in its own tomobako box and reflects an economical use of material.

Cristina Grajales: Via Lactea
Though well-established talents Paula Hayes and Randy Polumbo operate on opposite sides of the country, they share a similar cosmic and supernatural approach to functional and non-functional object-making. Both engage in a form of world-building and simulated environment-making by using standard materials in visually and viscerally transformative ways. Translucent composites, organic structures and skewed iconographic references seem to tie these two critical practices together.

Paula Hayes, ‘Gnomes’, 2020 COURTESY: Paula Hayes & Cristina Grajales / PHOTOGRAPH: Jason Muhlberger

Paula Hayes, ‘Gnomes’, 2020
COURTESY: Paula Hayes & Cristina Grajales / PHOTOGRAPH: Jason Muhlberger

From her studio in Athens, New York, Hayes creates nature-inspired terraria, living artworks and large-scale public installations. Her otherworldly sculptures combine living plants and soil with artificial components such as hand-blown glass, cast bronze, aluminium, acrylic, welded steel and hand-woven textiles. For the ‘Via Lactea’ show at Tribeca mainstay Cristina Grajales gallery, the artist is displaying her glass comets, silicone planters, resin birdbaths and patinated gnomes, her ‘Barnyard Animals Banquet’ series and her ‘Terraria Collection’. Filled with recycled glass, mica and other unconventional materials, the last named comprises giant totemic and amorphous material.

Paula Hayes, ‘Comet’, 2022 (detail) COURTESY: Paula Hayes & Cristina Grajales / PHOTOGRAPH: Jason Muhlberger

Paula Hayes, ‘Comet’, 2022
COURTESY: Paula Hayes & Cristina Grajales / PHOTOGRAPH: Jason Muhlberger

Polumbo operates in both Joshua Tree, California, and New York. His otherworldly installations jarringly mimic natural settings using recycled industrial and hand-crafted materials. His standalone sculptures imitate the growth of plants. His practice negotiates between perceptual, ecological and propagational systems. Inspired by his in-depth studies of horticulture, engineering and regenerative design, his works evoke alchemical, spatial and social reform. For the ‘Via Lactea’ exhibition, Polumbo is debuting several mixed media objects that simultaneously emulate hedonism and dystopia. A few of the pieces on view highlight his recent exploration of fungi. Also on offer, the artist’s ‘Curiosity’ grotto miniatures are handheld micro-universes.

Randy Polumbo, ‘Sprout’, 2018 COURTESY: Randy Polumbo & Cristina Grajales / PHOTOGRAPH: Jason Muhlberger

Randy Polumbo, ‘Sprout’, 2018
COURTESY: Randy Polumbo & Cristina Grajales / PHOTOGRAPH: Jason Muhlberger

Emily Mullin at Rockefeller Center
From New York Design Week in May to Milan Design Week in June, floral and biophilic arrangements were all the rage. Brooklyn-based artist Emily Mullin has cemented her career by creating installations using ceramics, photography, abstraction, vibrant colour and live floral elements. Riffing on the age-old still-life-making tradition, her all-encompassing works often incorporate hand-built vessels that include strategic interplays of ornamentation, pattern and slightly suggestive symbolism. Her practice centres on explorations of sculptural relief and framing, the aesthetics of worship and desire.

Exhibition view, Emily Mullin at Rockerfeller Center COURTESY: Emily Mullin / PHOTOGRAPH: Tony Mullin

Exhibition view, Emily Mullin at Rockerfeller Center
COURTESY: Emily Mullin / PHOTOGRAPH: Tony Mullin

Commissioned by Art Production Fund and Rockefeller Center as part of their joint Art in Focus initiative, Mullin is currently displaying a series of vinyl mural spaces complete with her quintessential vessels. These mise en scène vignettes are installed along the historic Midtown Manhattan complex’s street and concourse levels at 45 Rockefeller Plaza, Top of the Rock and Radio Park. The use of colour evokes the artist’s childhood in 1990s’ Los Angeles.

Exhibition view, Emily Mullin at Rockerfeller Center COURTESY: Emily Mullin & Art Production Fund / PHOTOGRAPH: Daniel Greer

Exhibition view, Emily Mullin at Rockerfeller Center
COURTESY: Emily Mullin & Art Production Fund / PHOTOGRAPH: Daniel Greer

“It’s thrilling to be able to show my work in Rockefeller Center this summer,” says Mullin. “I worked in the neighbourhood for years and admired the Art Deco flourishes throughout the buildings. Theatricality and staging have always informed my work, so I’m delighted to have these new site-specific pieces framed by the iconic architecture.”

Exhibition view, Emily Mullin at Rockerfeller Center COURTESY: Emily Mullin & Art Production Fund / PHOTOGRAPH: Daniel Greer

Exhibition view, Emily Mullin at Rockerfeller Center
COURTESY: Emily Mullin & Art Production Fund / PHOTOGRAPH: Daniel Greer

‘Donald Judd Library Stool 42 and Takuro Kuwata Cups’ at Salon 94 Design (S94D). Though art gallery Salon 94 is part of the newly merged platform LGDR, offshoot S94D is set to continue as an independent design gallery.

‘Via Lactea’ at Cristina Grajales

‘Emily Mullin’ at Rockefeller Center 

Article by Adrian Madlener
Article by Adrian Madlener
Adrian Madlener is a Brussels-born, New York-based writer covering a wide range of design-related topics. View all articles by Adrian Madlener