American Design Hot List

Aleks Pollner

Detroit, aleksandrapollner.com
The Polish-born Cranbrook student debuted a furniture line this year that demonstrated a sophisticated juxtaposition of textures and materials.

What is American design to you, and what excites you about it?
It’s a great honor to be named here alongside some highly talented and inspiring peers. I look forward to reading their thoughts on this question, because for me, it raises a lot of complex thoughts around what design is today, around audience and marketplace, and around what is fundamentally American. We, as American designers, are seeking not only to construct what design is today and what our responsibilities are, but what American means and whether it even exists in an ever-more homogenized tech-driven world economy. The transcending power of design, for me, always addressed our humanness and our experience as human beings. What keeps me excited is the human hand — the inclusion of specialized craftsmen and manufacturers in the fabrication process, and small-batch or one-off production.

What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year?
The biggest highlight and focus this year will be on projects for my graduation show at Cranbrook Art Academy, which will end up going to New York Design Week next year. I’m also really excited about a few incredible collaborations in the works, one being with a Dutch architect, Nicolaas Wilkens, based out of Seattle, WA. I love collaborations — they’re a creative must, because of the conversations and ideas they fuel and inspire.

What inspires your work in general?
Concept, material, and form drive my work. I’m currently absolutely inspired by land art and how a site informs a body of work. Shortly after New York Design Week I had gone to Marfa, TX, and in the midst of the desolate desert, its inhumanness, and Donald Judd’s concrete blocks, I experienced the feeling of being in an idea. The desert provides no cultural context, reference points, or any interference with a body of work except for the idea itself and the observer. In an environment where you’re confronted with your own mortality — with the desert representing a death, or transformation — what comes to life and confronts you is you, and the original idea proposed by the artist, the most pure experience of the work. I want to see and find that in my work, too. The conversation and experience would have not existed had I seen the same art in a gallery in New York.
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