Ian Collings

Ojai, California, iancollings.com
As one-half of the Brooklyn-based duo Fort Standard, Collings appeared on our list once before, way back in 2013. But five years ago, Collings left the practice he had helped found in order to take a three-year hiatus, spending time with his family and finding inspiration in the wilds of 
Central America. When he emerged in late 2020, it was with a full-fledged sculpture practice, a flurry of solo shows with The Future Perfect, and a new visual vocabulary that puts a primacy on natural materials and the ways in which they want to be in the world. He can’t rid himself entirely of utility, though, and one of our favorite pieces in his collection is a basalt coffee table that looks like as though it’s been slicked with a sheen of tar. 

What is American design to you, and what excites you about it?

What is exciting to me about American Design feels revealed in this question. There is a largely accepted attitude to maintain a state of flux and exploration. To move in a direction of discovery and rediscovery. Leaving definition (or non definition) up to whoever’s doing the activity. At this point in my life, American design, art, and pretty much everything else are, for me, about interacting with vast spaces — those both physical and metaphysical. I’m interested in experiences that offer higher levels of aliveness. And as much as I allow myself, I want to make objects that feel like rolling around in the mud in a dark cave then running out naked, excited, into the river.

What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year?

Considering I’m still trying to answer that question for the last three years, and that my plans hardly go as planned anyway, the one constant is the work. I’m engaged in doing the work and in that sense, I’m making new work for a couple of new shows and collections and some secret, exciting commissions for large-scale sculptures. But mostly I’m working to move deeper in the direction I’ve been building into for the last few years. To see if I can break out the other side. In that way, I’m feeling into new materials, spaces, and places. But for the moment I’m very excited about our Californian-winter vegetable garden, rain, and our hopes to return to the Costa Rican jungle sometime soon.

What inspires or informs your work in general?

Inspiration can be hard to pin down, because it’s all the stuff and none of it. For me, it is the sometimes-messy life stuff and the glossy, sexy culture stuff and the quiet things, too, like stars, rocks, and dreams. Lately I’ve been paying attention to the uncomfortable feelings, like nothing working the way I want it to. I also get excited when I find sea fossils at the tops of mountains or rocks made of other rocks for the way they remind me of bigger things. My daughter’s big eyes and determined little hands, old trees and the moment day becomes night are also the stuff of magic and the mystery, which I’ve sadly underrated in the past.

I’m currently reading: Slaughterhouse Five, The Smell of Rain on Dust by Martin Prechtel, and Chris Vitale’s Networkologies (again). I’m listening to The Power of Myth, interviews with Joseph Campbell for probably the hundredth time, any interview with Wade Davis and spending as much time as possible in the mountains.