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Future Tropes at Volume Gallery

"Timeless" is probably the most overused — and abused — word in design in recent years, typically employed by designers in the context of sustainability in order to imply that a piece has such a classic look or function that its expected longevity can somehow justify its existence in a sea of wastefulness and overproduction. Future Tropes, a new group show that opened this past weekend at Chicago's Volume Gallery, approaches the concept of timelessness from a very different angle, however: "The work should be slightly ahead of the world, slightly un-contemporary, setting the stage for future codes yet operating in a place that precedes our ability to apply language to those codes." (—Jan Verwoert, as adjusted by RO/LU.) In other words, objects that are equally linked to our prehistoric past and our distant, utopian future. Volume curators Sam Vinz and Claire Warner proposed that brief to Leon Ransmeier, ROLU, Jonathan Muecke, Tanya Aguiñiga, Jonathan Olivares, and Anders Ruhwald, who exchanged ideas on the topic before each creating a custom piece responding to it. See the results after the jump.
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Morgan Peck at Jancar Jones Gallery

When we first took notice of Los Angeles ceramicist Morgan Peck in 2012, it was because she had suddenly become ubiquitous in the concept-shop scene, with her vessels and abstract mini-sculptures popping up at all of our favorite places (Mociun, Totokaelo, Iko Iko). Now that she's moved into an entirely new territory — the art world — with the opening of her solo show at LA's Jancar Jones Gallery last week, we figured it was the perfect time to revisit her work. We asked Peck for her thoughts on her change of scenery, and how her sculptures have made the transition from shelf to plinth. "When Ava and Eric offered me the opportunity to have a show at Jancar Jones last February the first thing I thought was: Are you sure?" she says.
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Platform at Almine Rech Gallery

File under so simple it’s genius: This month, the Brussels gallery Almine Rech launched an exhibition, curated by Parisian art critic Nicolas Trembley, that mostly repurposes work from the gallery’s own collection. Called Platform, its primary conceit is a single, 55-foot-long white plinth running the length of the exhibition space, where all of the works on view joust for space, including Gavin Turk’s vinyl-painted Turkey Foil Box, Alex Israel’s marble and Styrofoam fro-yo cup, Andy Warhol’s Brillo box, Ettore Sottsass’s Casablanca bookshelf, and an array of Steuler vases we’re guessing might have come from Trembley’s own collection. Besides highlighting the three-dimensional aspect of the pieces — and making viewers reconsider items they might have passed over if displayed alone — Platform also “establishes a dialogue between the notions of design and contemporary art, objects of consumption, mass culture and subjects of contemplation” and asks the question: “What is an art object and what is the place of the object in art?” We’ve excerpted a few of our favorite images here.
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No Name Design at the Triennale Design Museum

The collecting of anonymous objects — and the subsequent use of those objects in creating a perfectly styled interior — has become such a staple of modern life that it’s hard to remember a time when not everyone loaded up their vans twice a year at places like Brimfield. But Franco Clivio, a former industrial designer and a lecturer at Zurich’s Schule für Gestaltung, has been amassing such objects for more than four decades. His collection — which numbers into the thousands — is on view starting next week at Milan’s Triennale Design Museum in an exhibition called “No Name Design.”
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Norwegian by Nature

When it comes to contemporary Scandinavian design, the furniture love tends to go to Denmark (Hay, Muuto, Normann Copenhagen) while Finland gets all the attention for its graphic design (Tsto, Lotta Niemenen, Kokoro & Moi). But Norway's design identity was always a bit more elusive — that is, until recently. This month in New York saw an onslaught of celebrations of Norwegian design, including Norwegian Icons — which celebrated the Nordic country's contribution to midcentury — and Norwegian by Nature, a survey of emerging talent curated by our friend Paul Makovsky of Metropolis, who criss-crossed the small Nordic country visiting schools, studios, and design fairs to gather a group of 23 design shops on the cusp of stardom. Norwegian by Nature was part of the Inside Norway booth at ICFF, and it was one of our favorite concepts for an exhibition in a long time. Prototypes by the up-and-coming studios (like Silje Nesdal, whose Granit bookends are shown above) were mixed with vintage pieces curated by Oslo-based Fuglen as well as works by more established companies like Roros Tweed and Mandal Veveri. All of the prototypes were having their North American debuts, but we can only hope some brave, deep-pocketed soul will soon put these beauties into production so we can see a whole lot more of them.
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OBJECTS, Curated by Joel Evey

OBJECTS began, as so many great things do, with Philadelphia-based graphic designer Joel Evey playing around with tool dip: A series of plastic-splattered lamps he made from grappling hooks gave way to an ambiguous dipped "kitchen tool" and, eventually, the curiosity as to how other genre-bending artists and designers he knew and admired were approaching issues of functionality. Last year, he reached out to half a dozen of those peers — ROLU, Chen Chen and Kai Williams, Eric Timothy Carlson, Brendan Timmins, and Alex da Corte — and invited each of them to present him with a piece that redefined or recontextualized the idea of a utilitarian object for the home. "It was loose and broad, but intentionally so," he says. "The point was to ask people who already existed within this playing field to do something that danced around the idea. The results are all very different."
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Renate Müller at R & Company

Renate Müller is 68 years old and has been designing children's toys for half a century, some of which she created for her family's toy factory in Sonneberg, Germany, in the '60s and '70s, and the rest of which she still makes by hand in her nearby studio, as part of the personal line she began in 1978. The materials she uses for that line have stayed exactly the same ever since (jute, wood, leather), as has her process and her policy of working alone, save for the occasional hand lent by her daughter. Many of her animal typologies have remained perennial, too. Yet when it came time to create 26 new pieces for her second solo show at New York design gallery R & Company, which opened yesterday, Müller decided to bust out a pretty major — and amusing — twist: Surrealist creatures with two heads, or no heads, that only someone with a very vivid, childlike sense of imagination could possibly dream up.
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Cray Collective at Stockholm Design Week

You can sometimes guess at the greatness of an exhibition based purely on its location (a little off-the-beaten track, naturally), or when its roster lists nothing short of five talented up-and-coming designers. With that in mind, it seemed only right to plow the bitter, wintry streets of Stockholm earlier this month to find out more about the new, colorful Cray Collective.
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François Halard at Demisch Danant

When we think of the legendary Chelsea gallery Demisch Danant, we picture insanely luxurious fur-covered daybeds by Maria Pergay, or foofy round Pumpkin chairs by Pierre Paulin. We think of furniture — not photography. And yet somehow the exhibition on view there now through March 1 makes a perfect kind of sense. The French-born, New York–based photographer François Halard is showing a series of portraits he's made over the last 20 years of architecture and interiors created by some of the last century's most significant artists and designers — the Palm Springs house by Albert Frey (top image), the Italian studio of Cy Twombly, the Villa-Noialles by Robert Mallet-Stevens, and, one of our favorites, the Captiva Island home of Robert Rauschenberg.
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Ornsbergsauktionen 2014

If you're a longtime reader of our site, you might remember that February, despite being utterly gross in the weather department, is one of our favorite months if only for the Ornsbergsauktionen, an artist-run auction house that's taken place during each of the past three Stockholm Design Weeks. Started by Fredrik Paulsen, Simon Klenell, and Kristoffer Sundin, the auction gathers together limited editions and one-offs from designers we already know and love — Katja Pettersson, Uglycute, Silo Studio, Hilda Hillström — and always introduces us to a handful we can't wait to Google. This year, in addition to furniture and objects, the three also managed to wrangle works on paper from the Memphis Group's still-prolific Peter Shire and Nathalie du Pasquier. We've included a selection of our favorites below, but for the full catalogue, visit the (gorgeously designed) catalog website or see the objects in person if you're in Stockholm, on view through Friday!
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Kueng Caputo: Never Too Much at Salon 94

Kueng Caputo’s first moment of fame came a few years ago from a series called “Copy,” where the two design-school friends would purposefully mimic a recently released work from a major talent by creating an exaggerated or distilled fakery of that piece. The process was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek homage to the original artists as well as a way for Sarah Kueng and Lovis Caputo to explore how those pieces had acquired their specific character or value. Whatever lessons they learned from that experiment must have stuck, for in the last two years, the Swiss design duo have released two collections that seem predestined for design greatness.
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Thaddeus Wolfe: Unsurfacing at Volume Gallery

Thaddeus Wolfe's Assemblage vases looked mysterious enough when he debuted them in 2011, first for sale with Matter and then with a special edition for Chicago's Volume Gallery — we'd never seen glass before that paired the shape and surface texture of rocks and minerals with amazing fades of opaque color. When we asked him to describe his process to us, it turned out that it was relatively easy to grasp, if not execute: He blew the vessels into faceted plaster-and-silicon molds. His newest take on the series — the Unsurfacing collection for Volume, on view as of tonight — looks even more complicated, layered with fragmented geometric patterns and contrasting colors.
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