R & Company: Spring 2022
solo shows from three designers – Serban Ionescu, Jolie Ngo and Hun Chung Lee – celebrating the imperfections of construction.
Serban Ionescu: ‘Castle Garden’
Jolie Ngo: ‘Memory Palace’
Hun Chung Lee: ‘California’
28th April to 12th August
COMPRISED OF MODULAR elements, Serban Ionescu’s ‘Tower For An Hour’ rises an impressive 6.7 metres within R & Company’s triple-height atrium. Like much of the Romanian-American polymath’s whimsical wares, the pagoda-esque structure derives directly from raw designs that he hand-draws and models.
The New York gallery is currently hosting three simultaneous solo exhibitions that highlight a trio of designers at different stages of their careers. All of them create works that celebrate the imperfections of construction.
Whether evoked in up-and-comer Jolie Ngo’s 3D-printed, mixed media vessels; established ceramicist Hun Chung Lee’s pieced-together totems; or Ionescu’s architectonic sculptures, what is perceived as sleek, ‘soulless’ minimalism makes way for a more expressive and distinctive approach. And yet, this kind of maximalism is more methodological and thought through than the arbitrary randomness it’s often associated with.
The idea of revealing the seams of a design harkens back to principles put forward by nineteenth-century anti-industrialists like Augustus Pugin, who believed that by using material in an honest way – ensuring that the connecting joints of a wooden table are left exposed – the labour and skill involved in the object’s formation could be better understood and appreciated.
Today, this philosophy extends well beyond the creation of functional objects and contributes to the interdisciplinary, artistic approach that drives much contemporary collectible design.
“My exhibition ‘Castle Garden’ is not a collection of objects but a feeling embodied in many different contrasts of scales, materials, colours, functional figuration, humour, the grotesque and form,” Ionescu reflects. “Like my immigrant past hinging between two worlds, my work borders the worlds of function and art. The pavilion invites you to step inside that border space; like the space in between still frames on a film strip.” Joining this large-scale work – destined for a collector’s Manhattan backyard – is an otherworldly landscape of elongated ‘roomscraper’ sculptures, many of which double as cabinets. Laser-cut planes characterised by jagged edges and almost anthropomorphic attributes are extruded as loose enclosures.
The works on view throughout the gallery are idiosyncratic by nature, not only as a demonstration of each talent’s bespoke practice but also as a reflection of their individual proclivities and narratives. Crafted using a hybrid ceramic and rapid prototyping process, young artist Julie Ngo creates almost cyborgian vases that she calls ‘Memory Palaces’, the title of her exhibition.
These reliquaries sport various decorative and symbolic images and take on an almost architectural, maquette quality. Trained at the Rhode Island School of Design, Ngo is among a new generation of creatives seeking to enliven age-old crafts through the use of new technologies.
Scale is another through line in the gallery’s spring offering. All three exhibitors have pushed their respective media to new heights, both figuratively and metaphorically. While Ionescu has envisioned works that far exceed anything he’s ever done before, Ngo plays on the common perceptions of proportion and minute detail.
A proponent of 15th-century Korean celadon glazing techniques, Hun Chung Lee has taken his chosen medium into a monumental dimension.
Weighty chairs and tables are joined by towering thrones, all produced by collaging together hand-sculpted slabs of clay. Various controlled and happenstance treatments to each component reflect both his mastery of the craft and his ability to innovate and challenge standard material properties. The ‘California’ exhibition currently on view features works that evoke the colour palette of nature that surrounds his new Santa Monica-based studio.