Californian design exhibition captures the magic of the US State
The rivalry between the United States’ East and West Coast may be inherent and longstanding, but the Manhattan-based design gallery Matter is throwing some love east with a new exhibition of contemporary Californian design (until 30 June 2021)
Manhattan-based design gallery Matter presents a new exhibition of contemporary works originating from California. Titled after the locale and highlighting the output of five creatives who hail from the Golden State, the show puts a spotlight on the earthy richness and broad, evocative culture of California, while exploring its universal appeal.
‘My connection to California, first and foremost, is that it’s where I was born and grew up,’ shares Matter’s founder Jamie Gray. ‘The landscapes, cityscape and culture of Los Angeles have had a profound impact on the way I see the world around me. I grew up with plenty of sky and surrounded by low slung architecture that spanned so many styles – Spanish, mid-century modernism, ranch, arts and crafts and so on. I still experience the world through the lens of a Californian. I find New York City fascinating and so culturally rich, but also kind of overwhelming in its verticality and frenetic pace. There’s something gentler that permeates the California design scene and I wanted to bring some of that easy-living, California spirit home.’
Design from California on show at Matter
Presented in Matter’s intimate space in Nolita, ‘California’ exudes a breezy and mystical ethos through the works that are on display. From the sensual, yet minimal ceramics of Emilie Halpern, who draws as much from the wabi-sabi tradition of her mother’s native Japan as she does from Dadaism, to the unique fusion of Brutalism and Uruguayan heritage that informs Estudio Persona’s bold furniture pieces, there is an intangible undercurrent to the display that reflects California’s multicultural and diverse demographic.
Add to this the totem-like wooden sculptures of artist Dan John Anderson, who works with found wood and transforms them at his studio in the high desert of Joshua Tree, and the colourfully painted paper lanterns of illustrator Abel Marcias, the showcase succinctly captures California’s quixotic atmosphere – an aspect further emphasised through the furniture pieces of designer Stephen Kenn. Formerly in the denim business, Kenn made his way into design by dismantling and reassembling found furniture pieces. The works in Matter’s exhibition are from his new Grounded collection, which sets hand-stitched leather panelling against materials like steel and stone to form their delicate silhouettes. United by their individualised approaches that feely mix the old and the new, the exhibition and its participants eloquently capture the magic of making and working in California.
‘I’ve always worked with designers from California and the last time I was out there, which at this point was more than a year ago, the idea for this show began taking shape. I wanted to gather their work into a single exhibition,’ Gray reveals. ‘During a series of studio visits, I started to see this invisible thread that bound all their work together. It wasn’t necessarily a particular style or material or anything I could put my finger on, but there was a pervasive sense of optimism and freedom in all of their work.’ §