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Let’s All Take a Moment to Appreciate Tokujin Yoshioka

These days we tend to think of Yoshioka as an old-guard stalwart who makes interesting immersive installations for brands, and nice-enough objects for Glas Italia. So we thought it was worth a reminder that he was one of the godfathers of the current craze for transparent furniture, and that he also made upholstered pieces that — had they been released today — would have been among the best things we'd seen all year.
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What are your three favorite pieces of his, and why? "He has several sculptures called Diamond Columns from the 1970s that are all amazing and are my biggest inspirations. I think they're the most inspiring in how they emphasize form devolving into color and our perception of it. When you see a photo of them you don't see a shape, you see color, light — the ephemera. The shape is unimportant, to me; it's all about the color and how it disappears."

Andrew O. Hughes on DeWain Valentine

Our first-ever From the Archives post, which looked back at William Sklaroff's mid-century desk accessory set Radius One, dates back to November 10, 2009 — the very first day of Sight Unseen's existence. But after that, the column pretty much petered out, partly because we didn't have the time to research it properly and partly because, with millions upon millions of wonderful old things to potentially highlight, how could we ever choose just one? We've officially solved that problem today with the launch of our new and improved From the Archives series, in which designers and artists will do all the work for us: Each edition will invite a talent we admire to give a little history lesson on someone from the past who's had a strong impact on their work. Our first subject is Brooklyn glassmaker Andrew O. Hughes, speaking about the California Light and Space sculptor DeWain Valentine (no holiday-themed pun intended).
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Hanna Eshel on 1st Dibs

If you’re not in New York, you might never have heard of Hanna Eshel, the Israeli-born, 87-year-old artist who suddenly appeared in the cultural Zeitgeist this winter. We certainly hadn’t until we overheard our friend Patrick Parrish talking about her at a holiday party last month. Parrish’s Tribeca gallery is one of two spaces in Manhattan (the other being Todd Merrill) that’s simultaneously giving the talented painter–turned–sculptor a solo show, her first ever in New York. Of course, now that she’s on our radar, she’s suddenly everywhere — name-checked in hipster interiors posts and featured on 1st Dibs, in an interview we're excerpting today.
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Box divided into twenty compartments: “I think this came from some kind of dentist — there was stuff in each compartment at some point, little remnants of fillings and other things. That’s what I love about objects that have been removed from their original context: There’s a reason why they were made a certain way, but when you take that reason away they’re just decoratively beautiful and unknowable objects.”

A to B at Toronto’s MKG127

There’s no object too mundane to catch Micah Lexier’s eye. He collects scraps torn off cardboard boxes, envelopes and papers lying in the street, even bathroom-cleaning checklists at restaurants — anything that deals with the passage of time or with systems, the driving forces behind his own work as an artist. “I love garbage day,” he says. “It’s hard for me to walk home and not find things. I keep a knife in my pocket just in case.” It’s not that Lexier necessarily uses these found items in his own pieces, like the 1994 series in which he photographed 75 men from age 1 to 75, all of whom were named David. They’re just another part of his lifelong fascination with the aesthetics of order, a way of seeing the world that was mapped out perfectly in the show he recently curated at Toronto’s MKG127 gallery, where curiosities from his collection sat alongside sequentially themed works by other artists.
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Paul Loebach on American Primitives

Two hundred years ago, when American pioneers were streaming across the country making homes for themselves in the uncharted wilderness, anyone who needed a corn grater or a mouse trap had to knuckle down and make one. “Everyone was a designer,” says Paul Loebach, who’s long been fascinated by such primitive, purpose-built objects, typically hand-carved in wood or crudely forged in metal. “Whereas Europe had a network of goods trading, for the settlers it was like, we’re limited to these five square acres. They had to be really clever to make the most out of what they had, and that kind of ingenuity is inspiring to me.” Already knowing this about the Brooklyn designer after interviewing him last November, Sight Unseen invited him to choose his favorite objects from the 1972 book American Primitives, which we found at an Ohio flea market for $2 and which contains several dozen annotated selections from Norris, Tennessee’s Museum of Appalachia.
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Originator: D&C Flour Co. Date of origin: Regular, 1918; instant, 1945. Notes: Early cookery grouped dumplings and puddings together, probably because both were cooked by steaming. Very early use of the word referred to sausages, as in black pudding or white pudding. Puddings range from Yorkshire pudding, to Sussex, to sweet, heavy puddings like Christmas plum pudding, to the lighter dessert puddings of milk, eggs, thickeners, and flavorings that Americans think of as puddings.

America’s Favorites

Andy Beach had quite a few strange, obscure books from his personal collection for sale at the Apartamento pop-up store in Milan last April. But America's Favorites kept us captivated for hours: A 1980 anthology of junk food that treated each item like some kind of museum specimen, listing its package dimensions, date of origin, ingredients, and backstory — from macaroni and cheese to Cheez Doodles. The best part was that there seemed to be not a trace of irony behind the presentation, a fact I confirmed by painstakingly tracking down and then interviewing its authors, Kay and Marshall Lee. They simply wanted to present food as art, and the 75 choices in the book happened to be Americans' most beloved.
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In a Box by Swatek Romanoff

There are more than 20,000 instances of great graphic design housed in the AIGA’s online archives, but for every Pushpin or Chiat\Day, there’s a Swatek Romanoff — a firm that churned out loads of wonderful work in its ’70s/’80s heyday but that isn’t the subject of much chatter among today’s design circles. When we were first putting together ideas for this site, it was Randall Swatek and David Romanoff’s whimsical 1979 “In a Box” series that inspired this column.
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Radius One desk set by William Sklaroff

When I was 19 and my family was moving out of my childhood home, my best friend and I hosted a joint garage sale. I dragged out all the crap the house had accumulated in the 50 years since my grandparents had built it, and she brought over a car’s worth of items her parents no longer had space for. Rummaging through her things, I rescued a Louis Vuitton bag from the '80s, the classic children's book The Lonely Doll, and an ashtray with rounded corners that spoke to my then-fledgling love for mid-century design. The box it came in said "Radius One."
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