East New York is not known for its draw as a gallery hotspot, but if Fernando Mastrangelo has anything to do with it, the art-world masses may feel compelled to visit more often. The artist and designer, known for his serene sculptural works made from commonplace materials such as sand, glass and cement, recently opened a 10,000 sq ft workshop and studio, with 1,000 sq ft devoted to a gallery space.
‘In my old studio in Bushwick, I had a lot of success with people coming to see the pieces in this beautiful, all-white showroom gallery and then also being able to see those same pieces being made in the same building – it was a double experience,’ says Mastrangelo. However, his work area was cramped and he wanted an opportunity to expand not only his studio, but show how this showroom-studio concept could work for others in the artistic community.
Installation view of ‘In Good Company’ at Fernando Mastrangelo’s new studio space
Looking to inaugurate his new showroom-studio, Mastrangelo started talking to and visiting emerging designers – people he describes as ‘off the radar’ – to commission pieces for an exhibition. ‘I gave them as much artistic freedom as I could,’ he explains. ‘I naturally gravitate toward what I like so there is an experimental thread, but it all turned into really interesting work that just exceeded my expectations.’
The resulting exhibition, ‘In Good Company’, featured objects and furnishings with a riot of unexpected materials – polyurethane, resin, melted pewter and even building insulation – but nothing felt overtly abstract. For example, Studio Giancarlo Valle created a set of hybrid armchair-settees that were awkwardly-sized and covered in contrasting textured fabrics, but compelling (and comfortable) nonetheless.
There was also Material Lust’s black polyurethane floor lamp, which had an alluring anthropomorphic charm. In other pieces, such as Facture Studio’s blue ombré resin-coated console, Slash Project’s elegant mirror with a weighty geometric marble base, and Anna Karlin’s ‘Moon Cabinets’ with hollowed out marble moons, the materials elevated the designs into something truly special.
A swirling oceanic sand painting by Mastrangelo welcomed visitors into the space, but otherwise he took a back seat, letting the artists work to their strengths and giving them 100 per cent of their sales. ‘I just wanted to give everyone the space. It’s enough to have clients and all these other people come out here and stay engaged in the design world.’