American Design Hot List 2021
New York, arathorose.com
Cranbrook grad Ara Thorose channels notions of queer identity through design in a thoroughly novel way — via the bent cylinder, a form he returns to over and over in his work, be it a chair, a glass-topped side table, or simply a sculpture. A bending cylinder, he explains, “veers into the margin, a space both unprotected and unencumbered by the boundaries signified by lines. By making standard things like chairs from bending cylinders, I flow the margin into the line, so as to engulf and embrace it.”
What is American design to you, and what excites you about it?
From a background of being Armenian, Iranian, and American, what’s distinctive about the American element comes down to individuality. Anywhere else in the world, who you are is always tied to where you come from. Here, it’s about where you’re headed. Within that is an incredible sense of optimism — the unique American opportunity to self-invent.
What excites me about American design is that sense of permission. Anywhere else, it looks like you’re breaking rules. Here, we’re just building our own.
What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year?
I’m currently working on my first solo show. It’s a limited-edition collection for Love House, due in the new year. [Love House founders] Jared and Arik approached me this past summer with a proposition: “Have you ever thought about making a sofa?” As it turned out, the thought had only just crossed my mind, so it’s kismet.
There’s also a unique collection exclusively for Twentieth. Growing up in LA, I’ve always been enamored by what they represent, so to work with them now feels very special. More soon.
On the home front, I just moved from Brooklyn to a new live/work space on the Upper East Side. It’s an exciting change and I’m looking forward to exploring my new neighborhood.
What inspires or informs your work in general?
I’m inspired by the notion of queer ingenuity. I think it comes down to turning a flaw into an essential part of something new. It’s ad hoc and gritty, pulled together with limited means. Out of necessity, you naturally optimize the potential of everything available – materials, space, even your own body. The genderedness of materials, and the classism of them — the normal order to those things get turned upside-down, with a sense of humor.
Queer club culture plays this at full volume, but those principles get applied by queer people in general, whether through aesthetic choices or how we appropriate space. Rather than conform, we can transform the things around us to make them speak our language.