Summer News & Notes

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In the Mix:
Dealer, Decorator, Designer

Evan Lobel has owned a gallery for fifteen years and sells some of the most venerable names in design. But in 2011, he became a designer in his own right when he released a collection of furniture called Night Star. His clean-lined commodes, tables, and upholstered pieces not only speak to Hollywood Regency style, but also explore the interaction of light and dark by juxtaposing materials. Radiant patterns pepper the collection, emblazoning the doors of a commode in hand-cut ebony, or the surface of a writing desk in pale, lacquered goatskin.
Lobel has a knack for wrestling unwieldy materials into complex arrange­­ments of pattern—take for instance his resin console inset with lacquered slices of bamboo—so it’s not surprising that he cites designers like Edward Wormley, Ward Bennett, and Karl Springer (whose works he has sold for years) as pivotal inspirations. It follows that every detail is executed by hand, including the exquisite tufting on a series of sofas and chairs mounted on carved mahogany pedestals. “It’s all about wonderful materials,” Lobel says. “And, of course, the best craftsmanship possible.”

Michael Boyd debuted his new collec­tion, PLANEfurniture, at Los Angeles’s Ed­ward Cella Art and Architecture in April. Not surprisingly, planes and other geometries are central to the collection’s minimalistic, case-study feel. So are warm, sustainable materials (jute rope and plywood), striking primary colors (red), and “affordable” price points, all of which place the collection squarely in the wake of pioneering modernists such as Jean Prouvé, Donald Judd, and Gerrit Rietveld. Organized into four series named as sparely as the designs themselves—BLOCKseries, WEDGEseries, PLANKseries, and RODseries—the collection is at once pretentious and utilitarian, as comfortable in a gallery as it is on your patio.

In Editions, her first collection of furniture, Liz O’Brien takes a stroll through decorative history, tweaking lines and techniques as she goes. Her Frances dining chair embodies Queen Anne style with sass, showing off cabriole legs and a plucky feminine shape. And her

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Art + Craft = Design

Christopher Russell started out as a painter and draftsman but when his wife decided to take a ceramics class he became intrigued by the idea of making objects instead of images. “Once I got started I just never stopped—all of my work is to some degree driven by a simple desire to possess something, to spend time with something, to look at something,” he says.

This past spring the Julie Saul Gallery in New York exhibited Russell’s After the Golden Age, a ceramic still life comprising multiple elements, including fruit bowls, birds, and obelisks, that is replete with historical references culled from days wandering through museums, taking in prints, paintings, and decorative objects of all sorts. Russell cast every mold himself and perfected the glaze to mimic stone.

He’s also recently started to experiment with bronze for a commission he’s completing for the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Arts for Transit program, which was launched in the 1980s to oversee the installation of permanent artworks in New York City subway stations. For the Ninth Avenue station in Brooklyn he designed cast- bronze ornamental gates and finials in the shape of magnified bee-covered honeycombs and flowers, a motif carried over from earlier work in ceramics. The gates (scheduled to be installed this June) were assembled in Queens at the Modern Art Foundry, a family-operated bronze workshop using the lost wax casting technique, the same foundry where Louise Bourgeois’s legendary spiders were created.
—Danielle Devine

Hans van Bentem’s installations run the gamut from whimsical to provocative.

Hans van Bentem’s installations run the gamut from whimsical to provocative.

The Dutch artist Hans van Bentem is best known for his crystal chandeliers. But don’t call them rarified. Shaped into skulls, revolvers, and airplanes, his twinkling creations are more punk rock than formal decor. This summer, at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, the artist gets another chance to pit his iconoclastic sensibility against traditional design. In an exhibition titled Keep on Dreaming, open June 1 through November 11, the artist will erect six installations inside the museum’s most celebrated period rooms, which have remained unchanged since they first opened in 1935. Expect everything from crystal canopy beds to fantastical porcelain robots to creepy, clownish sculptures produced in collaboration with Senegalese artists. And all of it framed by opulent moldings, scenic wallpapers, and Japanese lacquer that speak to a bygone era of Dutch design.
—Damaris Colhoun

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