'I like synthesis,' said Jim Jarmusch of his 1999 film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, which tapped into references ranging from 1960s Japanese gangster films to the Wu-Tang Clan, Don Quixote to Rashomon. An equally fearless and multifaceted approach animates another in 'Ghost Dog': the inaugural exhibition of Salon 94 Design. The group show fills the gallery’s high-ceilinged, subterranean space on the Bowery with the refined bricolage of Thomas Barger, Jack Craig, Kwangho Lee, Jay Sae Jung Oh, and Gaetano Pesce.
'Like the samurai, these designers work under the radar with their own self-prescribed sets of rules,' claims Salon 94 founder Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, and Paul Johnson, the dealer (Johnson Trading) who is directing the gallery’s fledgling design program. Deciphering those self-imposed rules based upon the wide-ranging work that results from them is part of the fun of the exhibition, which offers intriguing samplings of five distinct worlds.
'Hot dog' grey marble table lamp, by Jack Craig, 2017
Brooklyn-based Thomas Barger is represented by molded paper pulp chairs and armoires that resemble scaled-up versions of modeling clay creations fortified by papier-mâché (and concealed wooden frames). Their tubular forms and irregular bulges evoke anatomical connections and the menacing chewing-gum pinks favored by Philip Guston.
Nearby, the work of Jack Craig heralds a level shift, from organs to molecules. The Detroit-based designer uses hand-dripped bronze to create lamps and tables that burst forth like budding blastocysts. Gleaming squiggles of metal climb and colonize angular supports of marble and granite. Craig's cage-like constellations of bronze are often porous, lending their rounded forms the dynamic quality of soap bubbles, poised to pop at any moment.
'Savage Series Black Edition', by Jay Sae Jung Oh, 2014-16
Kwangho Lee adds calming order and precision to the DIY-inflected show. The Korean designer has developed a way of knitting industrial materials, and here, large-diameter PVC tubing stands in for yarn, creating a pleasingly chunky texture for a bench and chair.
Seoul-born, Seattle-based Jay Sae Jung Oh has another take on knitting. The stunning pieces of her 'Savage' series wrap discarded objects in licorice-like cords of black leather, leaving their silhouettes to come - slowly or suddenly - into view as part of amalgamated furniture. The grooves created by the tightly wrapped cords unite disparate cast-offs (a toy horse, a cast-iron skillet, a fist) into dark and lively forms.
Simultaneously hovering above and encircling the work of the four younger designers is that of Gaetano Pesce, whose puckish qualities come through in exuberant wall-mounted 'rug lamps' formed by soft, floppy sheets of rainbow-coloured resin. The flower-like forms are joined by his towering 'Tornando dal Circo' (returning from the circus) cabinet, positioned at the entrance to the exhibition. The 8 ft tall work, in the figure of an angular, drawer-laden figure with giant black shoes, is both clown and ringmaster.