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  1. 03.19.14
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    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.

  2. 03.12.14
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    Shannon Finley at Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld

    Usually we don’t mind having to share our discoveries in only two dimensions. But here is the rare case when it’s almost a shame we all have to look at these images on the Internet. Canadian-born, Berlin-based artist Shannon Finley, who opened a solo show at Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld’s New York project space last Friday, creates paintings that in person look like some other medium entirely — gleaming metal, stained glass, plastic, etc.

  3. 02.21.14
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    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.

  4. 02.14.14
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    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.

  5. 02.05.14
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    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!

  6. 02.04.14
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    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.

  7. 01.31.14
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    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.

  8. 01.30.14
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    Constantin Boym at UrbanGlass

    For anyone like us who “grew up,” professionally speaking, in the New York design world in the last few decades, it was always with a sense of awareness of and deference to the scene’s elder statesmen. Constantin and Laurene Boym, for example, set up Boym Partners back in 1986, and by the time we started circulating in 2005, they still felt markedly omnipresent, both critically and physically speaking. We suppose that’s why it felt so surprising when these New York stalwarts up and left town in 2010, after Constantin accepted a two-year tenure as director of graduate design studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar. They disappeared from New York design events, parties, exhibitions, and talks, only occasionally sending dispatches to their mailing list about life on the other side of the globe. They returned to New York a year ago, but we hadn’t really heard from them until now — with the launch of Constantin’s new exhibition at Brooklyn’s UrbanGlass, “Learning From the East,” which opens this Saturday.

  9. 12.23.13
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    Come All Ye Faithful, Curated by Carson Chan

    In our most recent Saturday selects post, we pointed out a recent mini-trend of design exhibitions being staged in residential contexts, including the subject of this post: Come, All Ye Faithful, a show in which Berlin-based curator Carson Chan has replaced all of the objects in Zürich curator Florian Christopher Seedorf’s home with works by his favorite European artists and designers. Opening last month and running through January 12, the exhibition was timed to coincide with the holiday shopping season, when consumerism runs rampant and people are in a state of frenzied acquisition. With Come, All Ye Faithful — which also functioned as a kind of tongue-in-cheek holiday pop-up shop, since everything in it is for sale — Chan wanted to examine the consequences of all that acquiring. “When purchased objects enter the home, they assume new roles, entangling themselves with the lives and emotions of their new owners,” he explains in his curators’ statement. “Come, All Ye Faithful is an exhibition that observes our relationship with the objects we live with.” Chan took time out of his busy holiday schedule to answer a few questions about the project for Sight Unseen.

  10. 12.09.13
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    Martino Gamper’s “Tu Casa, Mi Casa” at The Modern Institute

    I can think of plenty of designers whose works I’ve never even seen, or those I’ve only seen from afar, either raised on some plinth or sheltered under a vitrine. I’ve had the lucky opportunity, though, to not only see but experience the work of London designer Martino Gamper: walking under his colorful Chair Arch in the courtyard of London’s V&A museum, or digging my feet into the hand-knotted wool Houseplan Carpet he designed for Nilufar gallery in 2009. It’s especially nice to experience a designer like Gamper’s work in person because there’s always the possibility that the piece you’re seeing is the only one of its kind that will ever exist. Gamper has always maintained that he prefers to create either pieces for unlimited production, like his lopsided Arnold Circus stool, or one-offs — with no middle ground between the two. Most of the work on view at Gamper’s new exhibition, “Tu Casa, Mi Casa” at Glasgow’s Modern Institute, falls into the latter category. The majority of the 69 designs created for the exhibition are wholly unique:

  11. 10.30.13
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    Salone Satellite at La Rinascente

    From now until Christmas, pieces by 11 standout stars from this year’s Salone Satellite young designers’ showcase in Milan will be on view and for sale at La Rinascente. Considering that the Milan-based department store is basically Italy’s version of Barneys, this is kind of a Big Deal for those young designers on the verge of stardom. And if the pieces look like they could actually be part of the same collection, perhaps it’s because they all tackle the same theme from last year’s Satellite: “Design and Craftsmanship: Together for Industry,” a typically Italian name that just means that the designers were tasked with figuring out how to retain traditional craftsmanship techniques and processes while still producing for a mass audience. It’s also because many of the items draw from a similar materials palette: “This is a compendium of “poor” materials, ranging from wood to glass, to iron to terracotta, reinterpreted and worked in a surprising fusion of craftsmanship and industrial techniques.” We’ve picked some of our favorites to share with you today.

  12. 10.28.13
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    AmDC x Outpost Journal: Hometown Homage

    Last week, we introduced you to Outpost Journal, a magazine founded by Pete Oyler and Manya Rubinstein that investigates American creative scenes outside the likes of L.A. and New York, focusing on a different secondary city each year. This week, we’re showing you the results of the magazine’s recent collaboration with the American Design Club, which invited young designers to reflect on their own hometowns across the country, no matter how large or small. Exhibited earlier this month at the ever-changing New York boutique Story, as part of its Made in America showcase, the project — Hometown Homage — included a dozen or so objects intended to celebrate “the origins of our creative identities,” as AmDC co-founder Kiel Mead put it in the call for entries. “As creative professionals, the environments from which we come – whether a farm, small town, or large metropolis – help to shape our worldview. The AmDC challenged designers to look retrospectively at their hometown experiences to design an object that reflects their heritage, paying homage to their past with skill sets honed in the present.” The show itself closed on Friday, but Sight Unseen picked our favorite pieces to share with anyone who didn’t have the pleasure of seeing them in person.

  13. 10.15.13
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    Oscar Wanless for Riess, at Vienna Design Week

    Oscar Wanless is one half of Silo Studio, the London twosome whose unorthodox investigations into industrial materials have graced Sight Unseen more than a few times. But when I met up with him during last month’s London Design Festival, I found that his latest solo project was also more than worth a mention. For this year’s Vienna Design Week, Wanless worked with Riess, a ninth-generation enamelware company based in Ybbsitz, a small town in southern Austria. The factory has been knocking out metal pots and pans since 1550, and enamelling them at its Austrian headquarters for nearly a hundred years as well. Wanless came on board to disrupt the company’s tried, tested, and perfected process.

  14. 09.06.13
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    Jonathan Muecke for Volume Gallery

    Jonathan Muecke makes me anxious. I love his work so much, but I don’t entirely know what it means. I love his work so much, but he barely makes any of it. I love his work so much, but I don’t understand what he’s doing up there in Minneapolis, keeping mostly to himself. However I suppose it’s appropriate that he would cultivate the same cool, detached, mysterious air as his pieces, which — when I interviewed him for W magazine back in 2011, the first time he launched a collection with Volume Gallery — he described as “relational objects,” things with unfamiliar but contextual functions like “scrambling everything in a room” or “behaving like a mass — something you don’t really want to think about.” To that end it may be equally appropriate (if not semi-amusing) that on the occasion of Muecke’s second show with Volume, opening tonight in Chicago, curators Sam Vinz and Claire Warner asked a psychiatrist rather than a writer to interview him for the catalog, who probed him about equalizing and collapsing before concluding that “I find everything we’ve discussed completely logical, yet strange … in the true sense of something not yet encountered, or still unknown.” We’ve excerpted a few key moments from the conversation between Muecke and Dr. Brian Stonehocker after the jump, alongside images of all six pieces from the new series.

  15. 07.01.13
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    Jesse Moretti at Mondo Cane

    A few weeks ago, someone on our Facebook page coined the term “zigzag expressionism” to describe the current prevailing aesthetic in art and graphic design. At the time, we laughed, gave the comment a thumbs up, and moved on. But in the weeks since, the phrase has stuck with us — and never more so than when we caught a glimpse on Instagram of the work of recent Cranbrook MFA grad Jesse Moretti, on view now at Mondo Cane gallery in New York. What we like about this phrase in general is its laughable obviousness, but in the context of Moretti’s work it actually does describe not only a visual language but a thematic one as well.

  16. 06.25.13
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    Brent Wadden: About Time at Peres Projects Berlin

    Until three years ago, the Canadian-born, Berlin-based artist Brent Wadden had never touched a weaving loom. He was mostly making paintings and drawings, but because so many of them featured complex repeating geometric patterns, he was constantly told by friends and observers that they’d make amazing textiles. Most fine artists would have shrugged off a suggestion like that, preferring to hew closer to their own oeuvre, but not Wadden — he asked a friend for lessons on a laser-cut loom, and then stuck with it until he was making full-scale tapestries on his own and showing them alongside his other work. The pieces pictured here are part of his new Alignment series, on view starting this Friday at Peres Projects in Berlin. Wadden was kind enough to take some time out of his weekend to answer a few questions for us about the show, and about his explorations into the realm of craft in general.

  17. 06.12.13
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    New Abstract at The Printhouse Gallery

    Is it possible, in this day and age, to have a new movement in design, à la Art Deco, or Memphis? That was the question we posed to our panel of emerging designers a few weeks ago at the Collective Design Fair here in New York City, and the consensus appeared to be no. (As one participant claimed, “Everything just looks like the internet now.”) But this week, a new group show opened in London, curated by Printhouse Gallery’s Ruth Hanahoe and illustrator Saskia Pomeroy, that claimed one such new movement. They call it the New Abstract, and they’ve brought together different media in the visual arts — primarily prints, paintings, and ceramics — all united by a certain aesthetic and informed in some way by the process of making. (To be fair, a lot of the work does look like the internet; perhaps Tumblr is this generation’s aesthetic movement.) We’re still on the fence about whether the name will stick, but the curators do make an excellent case for the commonalities that tie the work together.

  18. 06.07.13
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    The Campana Brothers at Friedman Benda

    If you’re a longtime reader of Sight Unseen, you know it’s rare that we write about a big-name designer. In part, it’s a question of access — it’s far easier to get an RCA grad on the phone than, say, Hella Jongerius. But it’s also a question of ubiquity: If you read a bunch of design blogs, you’re going to hear about something like Yves Behar’s new Smart Lock until your face falls off. But the Campana Brothers — despite being one of the biggest names in design — have somehow always eluded that extreme ubiquity.

  19. 05.07.13
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    Furniture 2013 at Johnson Trading Gallery

    We suppose a lot could be made of the fact that Paul Johnson’s usually private Johnson Trading Gallery is finally opening its doors for an exhibition at the same time that both the Collective Design Fair and the Frieze Art Fair descend on New York City — and of the fact that Johnson’s former cinema­–turned–gallery space is located in Nowheresville, Queens, pretty much smack in the middle between Collective’s Chelsea pier and Frieze’s takeover of Roosevelt Island. After all, the gallery has always been on the fringes of both design and art, what with its carefully groomed roster of young talent making things that sometimes count as furniture in name only (Aranda/Lasch’s industrial rubber–sprayed Modern Primitives chair comes to mind). But to tell the truth, we’re pretty tired of the whole design vs. art debate at this point. It’s been nearly two years since Johnson hosted an exhibition in New York, and considering this one’s meant to celebrate four young designers who’ve barely yet made a blip on the scene, we were more interested to see what exactly Johnson’s been up to in his far-out lair and who he’s been scouting in the interim.

  20. 03.12.13
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    5 Platonic Objects by Christian Wassmann at R 20th Century

    Swiss architect Christian Wassmann is quite the chameleon: Not only does he seem to float effortlessly between every important New York fashion party, design talk, and art opening, equally at home in every crowd, his work also spans myriad scenes and disciplines — from the interior of a scrappy East Village radio station, to a massive installation with fashion darlings threeASFOUR at the Arnhem Mode Biennale, to his latest project, a suite of transformable furniture for the high-end Tribeca design gallery R20th Century. While we’re not sure how to explain his social gifts, his professional versatility comes down to something we here at Sight Unseen can certainly appreciate: Wassmann’s longtime appreciation for geometric forms permeates everything he does, and those shapes by their very nature happen to work just as well on a small scale as they do on a larger one. In honor of his first small-scale effort, we did a little interview with him, which we’ve posted after the jump.

  21. 03.11.13
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    Figures & Routines by Eva Berendes at Jacky Strenz Gallery

    Plenty of great artists and art historians have pondered the idea of painting leaving behind or transcending the canvas, but when I visited the Berlin studio of Eva Berendes last winter and heard her talk about her own work’s gradual journey beyond frames and stretchers, the first person who came to mind was Bruno Munari. In his amazing little book Design As Art, the Italian icon describes the idea behind his hanging mobiles — aka “Useless Machines” — as an attempt to liberate painting from its fundamentally static nature and give it movement and dimension; Berendes describes her own pieces in much the same way. Despite focusing almost entirely on painting during her graduate studies, she decided to create a free-flowing curtain for her thesis project because she found it somehow liberating, and she’s kept dipping her toes into the world of design and objects ever since, blurring the line between two dimensions and three. For her latest project, on view at Berlin’s Jacky Strenz Gallery through April 8, she’s ventured even further into that world, mounting a jumble of vintage objects, packing materials, and hand-painted silk swatches onto hand-welded black metal grids, thus “abolishing any distinction between the inimitable and the mass-produced.”

  22. 02.12.13
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    Alley-Oop by Will Bryant and Eric Trine at Poketo

    Before the show Alley-Oop opens at L.A.’s Poketo store this coming Saturday, you should take a moment to thoroughly examine the portfolios of its two Portland-based collaborators, illustrator Will Bryant and furniture designer Eric Trine. Because think about it: How easy is it to picture the results of a collaboration spanning the two disciplines? Especially when Bryant’s work is so crazy vibrant — full of squiggles and anthropomorphized hot dogs wearing neon sunglasses — and Trine’s is so very understated, albeit with a lot of cool geometries in the mix. Alley-Oop is like one of those software programs that lets you crudely merge the faces of two people to find out what their child might look like at age 5, though perhaps a better metaphor would be that it’s like what would happen if you pumped two designers full of methamphetamine and locked them in a room together for 48 hours with nothing but some spray paint and a welding gun. Actually, that’s not too far off from how Bryant and Trine describe it themselves. See our interview with the pair after the jump, along with the first preview images of their collaborative work — which hopefully won’t be the last.

  23. 01.18.13
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    Peter Shire’s “Tea for Two Hundred”

    We have some pretty fantastic subjects coming your way next week, but before we take off for the weekend, we felt it our civic duty to alert Los Angeles readers to an opening tonight at the Santa Monica Museum of Art for one of our favorite designers, Peter Shire. When we first visited Shire two summers ago for Paper View, we were well aware of his work for Memphis, his public art, and his too-hot-to-keep-in-stock ceramic cups. But it wasn’t until we were touring his actual studio and came upon a massive sculpture made from metal, wood, and other found objects, that we were introduced to his “teapots.” Shire swears that each one is functional, though his wife jokes that though you can send water through them, it might not get to the spout. But function in these pieces is beside the point; the eight pots on view at the museum’s “Tea for Two Hundred” exhibition tonight range in height from two to six feet tall. Shire approaches the cartoonishly large teapots in a way that other designers usually reserve for more practical objects like chairs: “Throughout his career,” writes curator Elsa Longhauser, “he has continually reinvented the object, using it as an armature to experiment with material, scale, and function.”

  24. 01.16.13
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    Le Corbusier’s Secret Laboratory

    They had us at the title: “Le Corbusier’s Secret Laboratory,” aka the painting studio where the architect took a pause from buildings and furniture to create expressive artworks like the sculpture above, many of which will be on view at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet starting this Saturday. Though his work has been under the microscope for so long now, obviously, that it would be silly to consider any part of his oeuvre truly a secret, the museum claims to have some rarely shown pieces up its sleeve, and a thesis that puts his career in something of a new perspective: “A central theme of this exhibition is Le Corbusier’s oscillation between two seemingly disparate pursuits — his celebration of mechanical objects and his search for poetic forms,” its curators write.

  25. 01.15.13
    Excerpt: Exhibition
    Das Wilde Denken: Depot Basel in Berlin

    There’s an easy way to tell whether or not you were born to be a maker: sit down at a table piled with random junk and scraps of material, and see how long it takes you to conjure something useful and/or beautiful. For the Das Wilde Denken workshop last month, Matylda Krzykowski and the team behind Depot Basel joined forces with my favorite design/fashion boutique in Berlin, Baerck, and invited a handful of local designers to spend two days doing just that. The results, of course, were amazing — where an observer like myself couldn’t really make the mental leap past a jumble of discarded trolley wheels and wooden boards, this group envisioned lamps, sculptural table mirrors, jewelry trays, and stationery sets. The curators saw it as a chance for the designers to get back to basics and enjoy the simplicity of an open-ended crafting session, but they also likened the experience to reconnecting with childhood, when making wasn’t goal-oriented but immediate and spontaneous — hence the name Das Wilde Denken, which means “wild thinking.” (Momentary flashback to Malin Gabriela Nordin’s children’s workshop, which we featured last month.) All of the pieces created during the session, a selection of which are featured in the slideshow after the jump, will be on view and for sale at Baerck through February 2.