American Design Hot List 2020
John Eric Byers
Newfield, New York, johnericbyers.com
We’ve been intrigued with Byers’s work ever since we first saw it at ICFF many years ago, when we thought his Brutalist tables and chairs were made from cold, hammered steel only to find out they were hand-carved in blackened maple. Byers trained at Wendell Castle’s school in the 1980s and has been honing his spare yet highly tactile aesthetic ever since.
What is American design to you, and what excites you about it?
When I think of American design, my first thoughts are of the iconoclasts: the architects Frank Loyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller, the furniture designers Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson, the artists / craftsmen George Nakashima and Wendell Castle, the sculptors Donald Judd and Richard Serra. They each broke through the boundaries and limitations of their time and particular mediums. I see a similar drive, commitment, and freedom of self expression in the current contemporary American design scene, and that is exciting.
What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year?
Prior to the pandemic, I was considering a solo show (my 30th) of my latest R1x Table Series, but clearly, that was sidetracked. Instead, I’m releasing the work individually to my collection of representative showrooms and galleries. I’ve been having success in the European market and I’m looking forward to the start of a new relationship with a London showroom at the beginning of the year. Next autumn, I’m looking forward to Moderne Gallery representing my work at the Salon Art + Design in NYC and at Design Miami, as they’ve done the past few years.
What inspires or informs your work in general?
My work is informed by my personal discipline and commitment as a pragmatic idealist, striving for a perfect balance of form + surface + function. Stripping the design down to its purest, simplest form while maximizing its beauty and function. It also comes from how I approach the physicality of the work itself, with awareness of and by embracing the realities and limitations of my body, my craft, my materials, and using those limitations to navigate to the ideal outcome.