How are you feeling? Brian Thoreen’s response to this quotidian question from a friend ended up inspiring his latest body of work. 'My answer was "unsettled,"' explains the Los Angeles-based designer. 'It was as if a light bulb went off as I was saying it, and the ideas of feeling or being unsettled became the focus.'
The objects on view in Thoreen’s first solo exhibition at New York gallery Patrick Parrish translate that sensation – at once provisional and precarious, shifting and restless – into three dimensions.
The eight furniture pieces and three smaller, shelf-mounted constructions in 'Unsettled' are united by a lively spirit of modularity. Thoreen infuses solid, elegant materials with the charms (and playful perils) of bricolage.
A raw bronze cylinder sidles up to tall panels of smoked glass, one tilted against another in a gravity-defying, Serra-style calibration, while a glass table with one curved side is held upright by a brick of bronze wedged within its open interior. The irregular nine-sided form of a coffee table that combines steel, brass and multiple varieties of green marble evokes the visual jazz of a tangram.
'I really wanted to create tension in the pieces wherever possible and choosing to not use any mechanical fasteners helps to achieve that tension,' explains Thoreen, who let the materials – primarily marble, bronze, and smoked glass – inform his decisions about size and scale (with a slightly smaller bronze brick, for example, that swooped glass table would topple). 'The guidelines come and go and shift and alter as the body of work develops, and inform the material needs and guide the process.'
Positioned at the back of the gallery is his irresistible black rubber credenza ('Once you experience it, you just want to keep touching it,' says Thoreen). Bracketed by sheets of brass that double as feet, the tripartite form is swollen with welt-like drawer pulls: a perverted inversion of Lucio Fontana’s puncture wounds on canvas.
'Rubber' credenza with mixed marble coffee table in foreground
The engorgement continues in the nearby 'Growth' table, in which a cast brass square top stands on three legs, one puffed out by a goiter of cast bronze. The defiance of a norm (the four-legged table) is literally balanced by another anomaly.
Still feeling unsettled? Don't be. 'Where there is the looming possibility of losing control,' notes Thoreen, 'there is also immense creative potential.'