We’ve all been thinking it, but the Los Angeles writer and publisher Zio Baritaux finally did it — put together a project capturing the prevalence of plants in contemporary art these days. Her new book Strange Plants contains interviews with ten artists of varying mediums who focus on flora in their work — three of which we’ve excerpted below — plus selections from the portfolios of 15 more, including an interlude featuring tattoo artists. Baritaux says she was inspired to create the book not necessarily by the trend she was witnessing in the art world, but by the elaborate gardens full of koi ponds and topiaries that her mother grew when she was a child. “I didn’t really appreciate these gardens until I was an adult, living in an apartment in L.A. with no outdoor space or plants to call my own,” Baritaux says. “There were plants throughout the neighborhood, like night-blooming jasmine and overgrown bougainvillea, but it wasn’t the same. I wanted to experience them. So I brought plants inside my apartment — a hanging terrarium, a potted cactus, and so on. These plants brought back memories and inspired me, just like the art I had hanging on the walls. So it seemed natural to create a book that combined the two.”
If there’s anyone who knows a little something about calibrating the perfect pattern, it’s Ellen Van Dusen. The D.C.-born fashion designer is Brooklyn’s reigning queen of prints, with nine seasons under her belt as Dusen Dusen, the line for which she creates flattering basics marked by colorful fruits, stripes, curves, dots, geometrics, and the like. So it made sense when we recently learned two things about Van Dusen: one, that she studied in college the psychology of design and the brain’s reaction to visual stimuli; and two, that she has a pretty incredible resource library to back that major up. On a recent visit to her Williamsburg studio, we perused her stacks, which included the massive, Todd Oldham–designed Alexander Girard monograph from a few years back and some amazing old Esprit books that we already had planned to excerpt in the coming weeks. But it was this book on Yaacov Agam, an Israeli sculptor and experimental artist known for his optical and kinetic work, that seemed to best represent Van Dusen’s joyful spirit. “As a textile designer, this is a huge source of inspiration,” Van Dusen admits. “I have named more than one print after Agam!” Here she tells the story of how she discovered Agam’s body of work and the long-lasting effect it has had on her own.
Invariably, one of the biggest things people want to know when they meet us is who, exactly, makes up the Sight Unseen team. For years, the answer has pretty much been: “You’re looking at it!” Monica and I, Sight Unseen’s co-founders and editors, have had our hands in every aspect of the site for years — from content, to curation, to social media, advertising, partnerships, pop-ups, shop fulfillment and more, with some key freelance editorial and photography contributors helping us out along the way. Today, we’re excited to announce that we’ll be bringing on an assistant editor to help grow the site in some exciting ways.
In our Saturday Selects column last week, we made mention of “More Material,” the now-closed exhibition at Salon 94 Bowery in New York, curated by the London-based fashion designer Duro Olowu. What we didn’t mention was the bonkers amount of new work Los Angeles–based ceramicist Matt Merkel Hess created for the show and shop (not all of which was included in the exhibition). Merkel Hess is best known for the ceramic copies he makes of everyday objects; for his 2013 show at Salon 94 Freemans, the designer rendered vintage Dust Busters, Super Soakers, stand mixers and the like in glazed porcelain. Here, he focuses on three distinct forms: porcelain novelty ears, flip-flops and West African water kettles.
With all the talk of Memphis Design suddenly in the air — Gizmodo and L’Arcobaleno both recently name-checked Sight Unseen in stories about its not-so-recent resurgence — we thought that sharing these ’80s-influenced illustrations would be a fun way to start the week. They’re by recent Kingston University graduate Peter Judson, whose work is a playful homage to Sottsass and the gang but has been compared to everything from Nickelodeon cartoons to “a cheap rip off of the latter works by Roy Lichtenstein.” We particularly love Judson’s series “Bus, Stop and Enjoy Yourself,” a series of 31 depot designs, one for each borough, including the one for Tower Hamlets pictured above. “The designs themselves are inspired by their local shopping centers and created to make what can be an incredibly tedious part of our daily routine, into something a little less so,” Judson says. Check out more from that series, plus several others, after the jump.
If you’ve been keeping up with this site, you know we had an awfully busy spring. And we’re extremely excited to have some amazing new content, partnerships, and events in the works (including an NYC pop-up and huge shop update coming this fall!) But for this week, we’re taking off, and we suggest you do too! We feel the need to press the reset button, even if we’re not particularly far from home. If you’re lazing around on vacation, too, this week — or just need to pretend like you’re somewhere else at work — may we suggest you take a peek around our archives for some of our most-loved stories this year? See you next Monday!