04 OOIEE THERES NO SEPARATION AAM

A Design Legend in the Making Breaks Out On His Own

When we first heard rumblings that RO/LU — the epically talented, intellectually formidable Minneapolis-based studio that we've been covering and collaborating with since its move into furniture design five years ago — was ending, we were sad but also a little excited. After all, what would its multi-disciplinary founders get up to next? This week, we got our first glimpse into RO/LU co-founder and creative director Matt Olson's new studio, called OOIEE.
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Mel Nguyen’s Desktop Deposits Series

Earlier today we posted a studio visit with the young Minneapolis artist Mel Nguyen, shot by photographer Debbie Carlos. But it only featured a small selection of Nguyen's work, in which each project is typically disassembled and morphed into three more. "If you look at a single project of mine and only associate me with that project, it will be not a complete representation of my practice," Nguyen says. We figured it was worth showing you one more example from her portfolio: her recent clay Desktop Deposits series, made for the Kansas City, Missouri, project Objet Boutique curated by Dean Roper.
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“My first year in school, I realized that I had more fun experimenting between mediums, and trying to subvert each one,” says the 21-year-old. “I already had an interest in graphic design in high school, and then I started making 3-D work with the facilities at MCAD, which combined with photography, has led to my current work.”

Mel Nguyen, Artist

As an artistically inclined teenager feeling bored and marooned in the suburbs of Minnesota, Mel Nguyen did what any millenial in her situation would do: She turned to the internet for creative stimulation. “Even as a high schooler I was looking at all these graphic design blogs, seeing how the field was changing, and thinking, wow,” she says. As soon as she enrolled as an art student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, she started her own tumblr, showing off her experiments sliding from 2-D into to 3-D and back again. She managed to build such a following on the site that her work went viral in certain online art and design circles — so much so that it’s hard to believe she’s only 21, and won’t graduate until this spring.
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PIN-UP Interviews

It's quite nice to write, as we do here at Sight Unseen, for ourselves, but it's equally — if not sometimes more — fun to write for PIN-UP. When you're a writer assigned to conduct a Q+A in the "magazine for architectural entertainment," as I was earlier this year, you take one look at past examples and breathe a huge sigh of relief. Because PIN-UP has always encouraged both writer and subject to be absolutely themselves, and its founder and editor-in-chief Felix Burrichter has always allowed transcripts into the magazine complete with exclamation points, interjected giggles, and tangents about things like Beyonce's hair, Philippe Malouin's "lustrous beard" or what kind of stationery is Shigeru Ban's favorite — in other words, all of the fun, non-jargony things that often make an interview entertaining to conduct but that usually get edited out. This week, PIN-UP Interviews — a book filled with seven years' worth of those conversations — was published by PowerHouse Books.
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ALL Knitwear Fall Update, featuring RO/LU

We never imagined we'd be the website bringing you images from a fashion brand's lookbook, but the ones we're featuring today were just too perfect to ignore. To launch her fall ALL Knitwear collection — which includes crewnecks and pompom hats in new geometry-inflected patterns and color combos — Sight Unseen fave Annie Larson reached out to another studio with a happily low-tech approach: the Minneapolis-based furniture duo ROLU. It's a serious match made in heaven, as these photos — shot by Mary C. Manning at Mondo Cane in New York — can attest. Both Larson and ROLU make deceptively simple-looking work that belies serious craftsmanship; both studios have Midwestern roots (Larson grew up in Wisconsin and used to work at Target HQ in Minneapolis.) But it also makes perfect sense on another level. ROLU often speak about their affinity for theatrical sets, so though their work is normally shown on a gallery level, we can't imagine a better context than this in which to show it.
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That Larson ever studied fashion design at all is serendipity: “I actually wanted to go to school for interior design, but when I went to interview at my college, the advisor looked at my outfit, and was like, ‘Are you sure that you want to do that? Don’t you want to enroll in the fashion program?’ I was like, “’Sure. Why not?’” Shown here in her apartment, Larson wears an outfit of her own design and typical of her style.

Annie Larson, knitwear designer

If you follow Annie Lee Larson’s Instagram — and chances are good that you do, considering the New York knitwear designer’s followers almost tip into the five digits — you might envision that she lives in some Peter Halley-meets-Memphis–inspired fantasyland, all primary colors, geometric patterns, and kitschy throwback accessories (hello Bananagrams!) But the truth is, Larson’s 5th-floor East Village walk-up doesn’t appear all that crazy upon first glance. A pretty but small, light-filled, plant-friendly apartment, the place is largely decorated in black and white, save for a trio of painted shelves where Larson keeps her most prized possessions, and a one-two punch of colorful striped and polka-dot bedding. It’s only upon closer inspection (and I mean, really close, considering Larson’s love of miniatures) that her oft-photographed influences begin to reveal themselves — dice, Swatch watches, Japanese toys, and ’80s electronics among them.
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Matt Olson’s Rauschenberg Residency

If you had to imagine the place in which you might do your best work, where would it be? Would it be a quiet, remote island? Would it be poolside? Would it be in the company of a dozen other creatives, spurring you on? What if the answer were all of the above? That's how Matt Olson of Minneapolis's ROLU studio spent the last month of his winter, engaged in a residency on Captiva Island off the Gulf Coast of Florida, on a massive estate that was once home and studio to Robert Rauschenberg. Olson was part of the residency's pilot program, which invited artists from different disciplines, all over the world, to spend a month making work, building a community, and generally inhaling the Rauschenberg aura. We spotted this diary by Olson on the Design/Miami blog about his time there, and had to share.
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ROLU’s Settee X Three at Sit and Read Gallery

It's fitting that the boys from ROLU would choose to introduce the show they opened this past Saturday at Williamsburg's Sit and Read Gallery with this quote from American sculptor Richard Artschwager: "Everything matters. An itchy nose, scratching it; a distant train. A bit of coffee left in the mug. My hand grasping the mug, the thumb providing guidance. Every encounter with another person... etc." Beyond being a mantra as of late for the Minneapolis-based studio, its core message — everything matters — could easily describe the approach they and most of our other design friends took to ICFF weekend: Why do one show when you can cram in three, or four? Thus while Sit and Read's Kyle Garner was installing his hand-dyed Sling Chairs at our Modern Craft show at the Merchant's House Museum, he was also prepping his gallery for the exhibition with ROLU, who were also installing new pieces at the Boffo Show House and at the No Frontier show with Volume Gallery at Mondo Cane in Tribeca. As a working method, everything matters may actually be dangerous to one's health, but when applied to a single design project, it turns out the results are pretty stunning — in this case, a series of furnishings and experiments that will be on view at Sit and Read through July 1. Click through to see what ROLU co-founder Matt Olson had to say about the project, and watch a video documenting how one part of it came to life.
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What inspired your Primarily / Primary series (pictured)? “The full name is actually Primarily / Primary (after Carol Bove, Scott Burton and Sol Le Witt), three artists we were obsessing about during that time that seem present in this project in a very literal way. The Seattle textile artist Ashley Helvey helped us with amazing wool felts for the chairs, and her work definitely inspired us, too.”

ROLU, Designers

Before Matt Olson and Mike Brady of the Minneapolis studio ROLU began making boxy plywood furniture in 2010 — earning them serious contemporary design cred and a reputation for channeling Donald Judd — they spent seven years designing landscapes, minimalist geometric compositions in steel, wood, concrete, and grass. It was those projects, says Olson, that have helped define the group’s work since, from their love for earthy materials to their awareness of design’s larger experiential qualities. “A landscape is a dynamic thing,” Olson explains. “It has smells, it grows and dies and changes. That taught me to pay attention to what’s really happening with an object; the chair as a visual and functional thing is only the start.” In ROLU’s case, chairs can also interact with users, reference sculptures and performance art and drawings, or become performances themselves, often by way of little more than a few planes of OSB.
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