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There’s a streak of fearlessness in designer and architect Pedro Barrail’s work. He doesn’t shrink from unorthodox juxtapositions; in fact, he welcomes them. His handcrafted furniture comfortably marries contemporary forms with the traditional craftsmanship of his native Paraguay. For more than a decade Barrail has been working with an artisan from a village outside his hometown of Asuncion, designing wooden tables, benches, and chairs, among other objects, bearing the intricate woodcarvings of the Pai Tavytera tribe. Brought to life by pyrography, or “writing with fire,” these ancestral tattoos play off the contours of his furniture and foster what Barrail describes as a “dialogue between modern and traditional design.”


A number of these pieces will be on display in his upcoming solo exhibition, Welcome to the Jungle, opening at the Cristina Grajales Gallery in New York on October 30. In addition to his tattoo-etched furniture, he will also be showing a very different body of work, one that draws inspiration from the construction sites of his “day job” as an architect. Barrail has been capturing this landscape in photographs since college, homing in on the structural elements of industrial processes, such as handcrafted wooden scaffolding, cranes, and iron rebars. The pictures emphasize the amorphous shapes, angles, and light that emerge from these forms. For this show, he has printed the images onto chairs, tables, and other objects: “I find in architecture and construction, that the process is often more interesting than the finished product,” Barrail says. “I find the chaos fascinating.” The result is an abstract, almost graffiti-like pattern cast on the surface of his furniture. And while the industrial images are far from the elaborate tribal carvings found in his other work, both are rooted in a rich visual language composed of symbolic gestures.