Week of November 25, 2013

A weekly Saturday recap to share with you our favorite links, discoveries, and events from the past seven or so days. This week: hot guys in design, a new online furniture shop in Berlin, Artsy's definitive Design Miami preview (including the Jeff Zimmerman ombre vases above), and more.
D’Agostin in his brand new studio in Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy neighborhood, sitting atop his BMW R100. “It’s from 1983 — like me!” he says. Behind him is a photograph of a man riding a bicycle in Shanghai, to which he paid three different 10-day visits last year for a book that's coming out soon. D’Agostin only shoots film and only in black and white, making most of his prints himself in his studio darkroom.

Renato D’Agostin, Photographer

Renato D'Agostin was born and raised in Venice, Italy, "where for most people photography in those days meant weddings and passport pictures," he says. Yet the city did manage to nurture his future career, if only inadvertently so: After falling in love with a photograph of an elephant that his mother won in a town prize drawing, he commandeered his father's Nikon, signed up for a local photography class, and spent his teenage years documenting scenes from everyday Venetian life, a process he's hewed towards ever since. Still, he considers his first foray away from home in 2002, on a road trip through the capitals of Western Europe, to be his most formative experience. "I took that trip to see if interpreting reality was what I really wanted to do," D'Agostin recalls. "From that moment on, I never had any doubt. I felt like traveling was the place where I wanted to live, and the camera was my extension."
David Altmejd's studio, New York

David Altmejd, from Studio Life by Sarah Trigg

Sarah Trigg spent more than two years photographing the ateliers of 100 artists around the country for her new book Studio Life: Rituals, Collections, Tools, and Observations on the Artistic Process — including boldfaced names like Carol Bove, Rob Pruitt, Theaster Gates, Tauba Auerbach, and Nick Cave. And yet you won't see any of their actual artwork in its pages (we've added our own to the David Altmejd excerpt below), nor will you see any overall depictions of their spaces. That's because Trigg, an artist herself, took inspiration from the most important elements of her own Brooklyn studio and decided to exclusively zoom in on any residue, mascots, collected objects, rituals, makeshift tools, and architectural details she found during her visits. "I placed a lens on daily studio life without expecting artists to defend or explain their work," she writes of her process. "It was crucial, therefore, not to overshadow the results with portraits, artwork, or depictions of the overall grandeur of the studios — all of which have established venues for exposure elsewhere."
The table where Norton keeps an evolving collection of materials — a piece of coral, a rock found at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house, wax hexagons from a previous installation — that serve as “inspiration or visual references” or might get used in future projects.

Heidi Norton, Artist

“Being a photographer and being an artist working with materials like resin, plants, and glass — those two worlds should not really mix,” says Heidi Norton. “You have the camera and you have film and you’re trying to keep things clean and archival, and then you have dirt and glass shards everywhere.” Such contradictions are at the core of Norton’s work, from the immaculate glow of her photography to the dirt-under-your-fingernails feel of her sculptural pieces, which typically feature houseplants in some form or another. Norton started incorporating plants into her photographic practice several years ago in a series of still lifes. It was partly a way to bring the natural world she grew up with, in rural West Virginia, into the urban setting of Chicago, where she’s lived since getting her MFA at the School of the Art Institute in 2002. Those photos eventually inspired her to make plant-based sculptures that explore how we create, cultivate, and change ourselves. Therein lies the central paradox: “The idea of preservation, and trying to save the plant while at the same time killing it through that preservation, became really interesting to me,” she says. “All of the mediums I use deal with that idea in different ways.” Even her studio itself, shot by Debbie Carlos for part two of Sight Unseen's series on Chicago artists, is part of the process.
Another quilt in the series, with Eichhorn’s then-in-progress 4x6 orchid panel visible in the foreground. He was also, at the time, preparing to start a piece for the Chicago Transit Authority which finally launched last week, part of a series of artist commissions to be hung at the Damen L-train station.

Stephen Eichhorn, Artist

As a four-year-old living in Lenoir, South Carolina, Stephen Eichhorn refused to learn how to read. While everyone else in his class was singing their ABCs, he’d stubbornly deemed it unnecessary — he already knew he was destined to be an artist, communicating through images rather than words. “People asked me, how are you going to read your show cards or write press releases?” Eichhorn recalls. “My answer was, I’m going to marry someone who knows how to read! The resistance was so heavy they put me in a special ed class.” His protest didn’t last more than a few months, luckily, but his uncanny commitment to his future career did: At 14, for example, he interned for a group of Star Wars toymakers who taught him freehand drafting and craft techniques, and at 17 he attended a summer art program at SAIC before enrolling there a year later. Since graduating in 2006 he’s been living the dream instead of planning for it, working independently from a studio he shares with his wife in Chicago, which is where SU’s newest contributor Debbie Carlos visited him this past spring for our two-part series on Windy City artists.

James Shaw, Furniture Designer

I recently wrote an article for a forthcoming issue of Architectural Digest on the London talent Anton Alvarez, whose Thread-Wrapping Machine has captivated the design world as of late, and in it, his gallerist Libby Sellers makes the point that what's so of the moment about his work is that he isn't just making objects, he's making the object that makes the objects. And it's so true: Many of the more interesting young designers we've come across in the past few years have been the ones shifting their focus towards developing their own weird and wonderful production processes, like Silo Studio for instance. There's just something about this unexpected inventiveness that captures people's curiosity, which explains why the latest project by newcomer James Shaw — a series of homemade "guns" that spray or extrude materials into or onto furnishings — went viral on the design blogs shortly after he presented it at his RCA graduation show. In work like his, it's about the journey, not just the destination. So Sight Unseen, right?

Ben Medansky Studio Visit on Los Angeles, I’m Yours

It's a quiet summer week here at Sight Unseen HQ. August is approaching, we're spending more and more weekends out of the city, and the time in between them is becoming increasingly shorter and less productive. But that doesn't mean we don't know from hard work — we've spent the last four years pouring inordinate amounts of time and effort into the stories on this site, and so we're all the more sympathetic when we see other blogs doing the same. Case in point: the ridiculously extensive, print mag–worthy interview with ceramicist Ben Medansky we spotted recently on the blog Los Angeles, I'm Yours, a city-centric cultural resource founded in 2011 by The Fox Is Black's Bobby Solomon with editor Kyle Fitzpatrick. We've excerpted part of it here, along with a selection of the accompanying studio photos.

Katie Stout, Furniture Designer

What were you doing at age 24? Muddling through grad school? Working as a CAD monkey? Moving back in with your parents? If so, you might be more than a little jealous of recent RISD grad Katie Stout, who at that tender age already holds the post of gallery director at New York's Johnson Trading Gallery, where Paul Johnson not only represents her work but encourages her to introduce him to that of her peers (like Noho Next alum and future SU subject Misha Kahn, for example). Before she landed the job, Stout's only previous employment was a one-summer college internship for the novelty housewares brand Fred and Friends: "I showed the creative director my portfolio, and when he saw a table I'd made as a sophomore that was an udder with milk squirting out of its teats, he asked me what I was on," she recalls. "Obviously I said nothing."

Pauline Deltour, Product and Furniture Designer

Okay, let's get this out of the way as quickly as possible: Yes, Pauline Deltour spent a few years as a designer in Konstantin Grcic's studio. And yes, Grcic may have made a few strategic phone calls on her behalf, jumpstarting her career once she struck out on her own in 2009. But considering that was four years ago, and the 30-year-old Paris-based talent has since turned out more than a few painfully elegant designs for the likes of Discipline and Kvadrat, we thought it was worth stating for the record that she's become quite the rising star in her own right — not to mention one of design's most promising new female voices. We checked in with Deltour, who describes her practice as aspiring to create "self-evident" objects, to find out what she's been up to lately.

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.
A piece from Nick van Woert’s best-known series, in which he lays a plaster neo-classical sculpture or bust face-forward on the ground and pours a pool of colored urethane over it, making it look like some nightmare out of the Matrix once it’s placed upright again. “Urethane is a material I use all the time which is in absolutely everything we buy and build now,” van Woert says. “It’s like the Coca-Cola of our lives.”

Nick Van Woert, Artist

Visit Nick van Woert’s massive studio in Greenpoint, and in all likelihood you’ll find a cluster of white people standing in a corner, naked and clutching each others’ butts — these artificial neo-classical statues have been a recurring theme in the Nevada-born artist’s work since shortly after he began his career in earnest in 2006. Many of them get tipped over and enveloped in a cascade of colored resin that hardens in mid-drip; in one series, he hollowed out their midsections and let the wind give them garbage guts. “It was like a little trap, and the wind would blow weird shit in there that accumulated outside my studio,” van Woert says. “Anything from Doritos bags to Monster Energy drink cans. The DNA of the world outside.” It was his most literal manifestation of the mantra that drives most of his practice: You are what you eat.

Gaetano Pesce’s Studio on The Aesthete

Many Sight Unseen readers will no doubt be familiar with the work of Gaetano Pesce, the Italian design icon most famous for his use of amorphous, Jello-y plastics. But how many of you knew that he's been based in New York since 1983, with a huge studio in Soho and a workshop near the Navy Yards? You heard me, the Navy Yards! If you had no idea, it's not really your fault; the man is rarely spotted at design openings or speaking on panels, and he hasn't had a major solo show in the city in 25 years — until now, that is. To mark the debut of L'Abbraccio, a retrospective of his work that opens tonight at Fred Torres Collaborations in Chelsea, I interviewed Pesce for the online magazine The Aesthete about why he moved to New York in the first place (because it's a "service city," aka whatever you want whenever you want it) and why he feels like he "didn't exist" here until now. Special treat: studio photos shot by SU contributor Brian W. Ferry! Check out a preview of the piece after the jump, then head back to The Aesthete for the full story.