Architects’ Sketchbooks

In the context of the hysteria currently surrounding all things old-fashioned and handmade, it makes a certain sense to mount an examination of architecture's low-tech roots: those hand-rendered sketches and schematics that still tend to quietly precede even the most digitally advanced structures. It's debatable whether the practice as a whole is consciously returning to those roots, as the new book Architects' Sketchbooks argues, but when the architects who find joy in committing their thoughts to paper open their notepads for all to see, the appeal runs deeper than any cultural trend. "For me, the process is often more fascinating than the end result, and at the heart of architecture, which is part of the process of building worlds, lies the language of drawing," writes Narinder Sagoo of Foster + Partners in the book's foreword.
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Objects USA on YHBHS

Sighted on the interiors and art blog You Have Been Here Sometime, a chat with the three collectors behind Objects USA, an L.A.-based online and pop-up gallery dedicated to mid-century California design and crafts (and San Diego in particular). Ron Kerner, Steve Aldana, and Dave Hampton banded together to start Objects USA in 2005, after discovering they were all pretty much after the same stuff, and they've since expanded their repertoire to include hosting bi-annual "Mod Swap" trading events for other collectors. But though they were fortunate enough to find each other, they're aware that not everyone shares their taste: "Most people have gotten used to basic mid-century modern, and that's certainly where we all started," they write in the interview. "But for someone with visions of Pierre Koenig-style antiseptic interiors dancing in their head, our crazy hippie-modern fiber-art and funk movement meltdowns can seem unsettling." We think you'll like it just fine, which is why we’ve excerpted part of the interview here, where each partner tells the story behind his favorite object from his own collection, like these hand-carved wooden speakers from 1972.
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Patrizia Moroso, Design Producer, and Anna Galtarossa, Artist

It gyrates, it whirs, and it's every bit the mechanically-powered spectacle of a department-store Christmas Village: Italian furniture brand Moroso's New York showroom has been transformed into a jolly urban landscape of brightly colored kinetic skyscrapers, an immersive installation created by the young Italian artist Anna Galtarossa. Woven amongst the shop's Tord Boontje lounge chairs and Front sofas, Galtarossa's fabric buildings were commissioned by company founder Patrizia Moroso as part of a newly launched grant project called the Moroso Award for Contemporary Art. Curated in partnership with the Civic Gallery of Contemporary Art in Monfalcone — along with a guest panel of design-industry talents like Tobias Rehberger, David Adjaye, and Patricia Urquiola — the award will fund not only Galtarossa's New York project but planned installations by additional 2011 recipients Martino Gamper and Christian Frosi. But even more, it serves Moroso's own effort to expand her support to art, a creative discipline that has lost crucial government funding in recent years, by highlighting its potential to impact the practice of design. We recently spoke with both Moroso and Galtarossa about the ways art and design can influence one another, and how Galtarossa's Skyscraper Nursery embodies those ideas.
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John Currin’s Studio in Art+Auction

John Currin's New York studio, as we'd imagined it, could have gone either way: Classical and lush, befitting a painter who got famous in the '90s portraying himself as a new Old Master while his contemporaries were overdosing on conceptualism, or strange and wild, bursting with the eclectic ephemera Currin references in his portraits, from vintage porn mags to movie clips to historical tomes. When we spotted an article posted on ARTINFO — which originally ran in Art+Auction magazine — promising a look into this very realm, we were surprised to see something that didn't particularly fit either mold. Perhaps it's the fact that, as the article mentions, he'd just moved in and redone the floors, or perhaps he tidied things up for the cameras. But aside from some odd-looking mannequins and a table piled with paint tubes, Currin's working space didn't look much like a working space at all. Luckily, writer Daniel Kunitz was able to paint a lovely, erm, picture of what it's like to be Currin — from his everyday anxieties to his video game habits to the music he listens to when he's feeling creative. Read the first half of the article here, then follow the jump to the ARTINFO site to learn more about Currin's artistic process.
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Evan Gruzis, Artist

Evan Gruzis explored altered states of awareness a few years back, and while he was wigging out, managed to scrawl down such revelatory thoughts as “there once was a movie, it was amazing”; “welcome to the temple of showers, please take a shower in one of our many showers”; and “no bother, it’s just the remix.” Having rediscovered the notes recently, he turned them into a series of works on paper by scanning and enlarging them, cutting out the individual letters, then sweeping over the cutouts with the flat, ’80s-style gradient that forms the background for many of his works, including semi-photorealistic still lifes and geometric abstractions inspired by Saved by the Bell and Memphis. Rather than using an airbrush — “blasphemy!” according to the 31-year-old artist — Gruzis builds up the gradients in meticulous layers of India ink, spreading upwards of 20 separate washes across wet paper with soft squirrel-hair paintbrushes until the effect is practically flawless. “It’s about taking a moment that isn’t even remembered and turning it into this layered, highly crafted, highly rendered thing,” he explains of the acid notes, the kind of process that keeps him locked away in his studio six days a week. “It’s about taking meaninglessness and glorifying it. That’s another way of putting what I do: Making absurdity seductive, and making the seductive vapid, so you get caught in this feedback loop.”
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Jim Drain, Artist

It’s a wonder that Jim Drain isn’t a hoarder of epic, A&E-worthy proportions. Sure, nearly every corner of the 3,000-square-foot Miami studio he shares with fellow artist and girlfriend Naomi Fisher is crammed full of stuff — chains, knitted fabric scraps, yarns, paint cans, talismen, toilet tops, costumes, books, prints, past works, and parts of past works that have been dismembered, all jockeying for attention. But considering Drain has worked with 10 times that many mediums in his nearly 15 years of making art, fashion, and furniture — often incorporating junk found in thrift stores and back alleys — hey, it could be a lot worse. “My dad will find something and go, I got this weird thing I think you’ll like, and my friends do it too, and I’m like, I’m not a trash collector!” he insists.
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Rafael de Cardenas, Interior Designer

If style is a sore subject for the up-and-coming interior designer Rafael de Cardenas, who bristles at the suggestion that he might have one, a therapist would likely lay the blame on his mother. A Polish-Swiss former fashion PR agent — who with his Cuban father moved the family to New York City when de Cardenas was six — she was constantly redecorating, stripping the house bare every time her tastes changed. “She’s into one thing carried throughout, she can’t mix and match,” says de Cardenas. “So once it’s something new, everything’s gotta go. There was an Armani Casa phase, and now it’s all Native American, with blankets and sand-covered vases from Taos. It scared me away from design to a degree.” After spending most of his childhood wanting to be a doctor, he eventually went to RISD to study fashion and painting, and ended up heading the menswear department at Calvin Klein for three years. But although he admits that interiors were something he never put any thought into back then, design began exerting its slow pull.
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Iacoli & McAllister, designers

It’s hard enough to be a young American designer. The lack of government funding means that prototypes must often be self-financed, and the difficulty in working with most European manufacturers means that young design studios frequently end up handling their own production as well. Now try doing it all in Seattle, a city that’s not exactly famous for its flourishing industrial design scene.
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William Hundley, Artist

The artist William Hundley — known for photographing plumes of fabric hovering enigmatically in mid-air and strange objects balancing atop cheeseburgers — recently began experimenting with self-portraits. Which wouldn't be out of the ordinary, except that Hundley happens to hate letting people know what he looks like, so he obscures the photos of his face with collages of weird body parts and other incongruous images. He’s also been playing with masks, shooting the results of elaborate tribal-inspired face-painting sessions with his fiancée. “There’s this perception that I’m this badass artist who doesn’t give a fuck, this imagined character,” says Hundley, a boyish Texas native who lives deep in the suburbs of Austin. “But I work at a hospital in IT. So that’s why I don’t like putting images of myself or a biography out there — I mean look at me, I’m all-American white-boy looking. It would ruin the illusion.”
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Monica Khemsurov, Co-Editor

In honor of Sight Unseen's first anniversary, we, the editors, decided to turn the lens on ourselves, revealing what inspires us as writers about and champions of design and art. If you're an especially devoted reader of Sight Unseen, you might have noticed that Monica — who spent her childhood putting bugs under a kiddie microscope and was at the head of her high-school calculus class — often tends towards subjects inspired by geometry and science, while Jill — whose love for color and pattern likely began with an uncommonly large novelty earring collection — favors maximalist, throw-every-color-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks types. We were interested to see how those formative experiences would play out in a documention of our own reference points. Here's a closer look at eight of Monica's editor's picks.
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David Huycke’s Granulation Series

The history of the metalworking technique known as granulation stretches back some 5,000 years, to when ancient goldsmiths in Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean began fusing tiny ornamental gold balls onto jewelry surfaces using a painstaking invisible soldering process. It was used to decorate the rings of the queen of Ur in the Bronze Age, perfected by the Etruscans in the 7th century BC, and resurrected in 1933 by a jewelry maker looking to copy pieces from the British Museum's collection. Yet only when the contemporary Belgian silversmith David Huycke began experimenting with the obscure technique in 1996 did it feel like granulation had finally evolved — beyond the realm of fussy antique jewelry and into the world of modern design. For Re-Thinking Granulation, Huycke's show of granulated vessels and atomic sculptures on view now at the design museum Z33 in Hasselt, Belgium, he's worked on a blown-up scale and forsaken the idea of ornamentation in favor of letting each object's form grow organically from the process used to make it.
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Katy Horan, Artist

Sighted on the illustration blog Pikaland, an interview with artist Katy Horan, whose intricate paintings channel Victorian mourning rituals, ghost stories, children's books, and traditional feminine crafts. Of her folk-art influences, she says: "All these art forms that at one point may have been considered outside or less-than by the contemporary art world can make our work so much more interesting and dynamic. There has been a noticeable acceptance of (for lack of a better term) 'low brow' art forms such as illustration and folk art lately, and I think it’s a very exciting development for the art world."
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