As a trained landscape architect, one would expect sculptor-designer Ross Hansen’s body of work to be somewhat related to the natural world. This could not ring more true in Hansen’s latest exhibition, ‘Tino’s White Horses’, which is being presented at design gallery Marta Los Angeles – his first solo show in his adoptive hometown. 

Marta Los Angeles presents ‘Tino’s White Horses’ by Ross Hansen

Lamp and vases by Ross Hansen for Marta Los Angeles

With Ross Hansen based between California and New Mexico, his newest pieces are inspired by the equine neighbours dwelling in the remote desert landscape of the latter. The functional pieces, which range from seating, lighting, furniture and vessels, specifically reference the unincorporated Ojo Caliente community, best known for its distinctive geological formations and its mineral hot springs. According to Tewa tradition (a group of Pueblo tribes indigenous to New Mexico), the pools provide access to the underworld and so hover mythically between this world and the next.

Such duality is also present in Hansen’s new pieces, which expressively merge biomorphic and architectonic forms and furniture typologies, with an exquisitely fleeting materiality derived from his use of epoxy resin, faux-leather upholstery and sewn hemp fibreglass. As much evocative of the natural world as a spiritual one, the collection almost resembles an evolved species, cohabiting in a new realm.

yellow chair by Ross Hansen

‘We’ve known and admired Ross’ work ever since first coming across several of his pieces via Volume, the long-standing Chicago gallery that represents Hansen here in the US. Shortly after opening Marta in 2019 and learning that Hansen’s live/work studio was located just down the road in Los Angeles’ garment district, we invited Ross to participate in the now-seminal “Under / Over” (aka The TP Holder Show) at Marta,’ says the gallery’s co-founder Benjamin Critton.

‘A small-scale follow-up in the gallery’s back-of-house paired a console by Hansen with several paintings from LA artist Joey Cocciardi, the two of whom had briefly overlapped at the Cranbrook Academy of Art several years prior.’

Low table by Ross Hansen

He continues, ‘The new works in “White Horses” not only engage in novel material frontiers, but are also tethered together tonally and thematically by their relationship to the artist’s newfound seasonal homestead outside of Ojo Caliente, New Mexico. Communing in part with the desert landscape of the US Southwest has imbued the works with a naturalism and, in some cases, biomorphism that feels particularly exciting as it relates to both the artist’s existing practice, and to the general landscape of contemporary functional artwork.’

Lamp by Ross Hansen

While there are nods to pre-existing design styles – an overarching ‘Under Lamp’ clearly draws from Italian modernist lighting, for example – much of Hansen’s lexicon is all his own. His resin-coated hemp baskets, almost hoof-like in their elemental form, burst from the ground like a group of succulents, while the more monolithic wood and epoxy low table and ethereally draped, resin and polyester mesh ‘Filter A’ room divider/lamp each convey their own unique tactility. 

‘Hansen’s work in ceramic epoxy resin has always appealed to a number of different palettes due in part to its cunning materiality,’ Critton concludes. ‘Upon first glance, the works often appear to reference natural stone and marble. However, on further inspection, it becomes clear that the pieces and their finish instead mimic common building materials that themselves have sought to imitate stone, such as Formica, Linoleum; the re-presentation of a representation of a natural material.’ §

Green bench, detail, from Ross Hansen
Detail of yellow chair by Ross Hansen
Baskets by Ross Hansen