Non-visual forces: Robert O’Connell at James gallery

Non-visual forces: Robert O’Connell at James gallery

Parisian gallery James presents the works of American designer Robert O’Connell in a new exhibition debuting later this month.

‘Standing Objects’ marks the start of a series of explorations on the fundamentals of design, which the gallery founders Paul Viguier and Candice Fauchon intend to carry out through several exhibitions in the coming month. The pair founded the gallery in 2012 at the Puces de Saint-Ouen market, and recently relocated to a new Paris outpost, where they now present a diverse range of modern and contemporary design. (They’ve a penchant for Brazilian makers but maintain a wide outlook at global creative talent.)

The RISD-educated O’Connell creates archetypal shapes that blur the boundaries between furniture and art through a minimal aesthetic. The designer’s capsule collection is a departure from his earlier, more voluminous works, and results from an exploration of structural codes of post-war furniture. His inspiration focusses on the principles of economy of means, an instrumental notion in the definition of modern design, which he pushes to the very limit.

Using half-inch steel rods, O’Connell created forms both abstract and familiar, giving viewers the possibility to complete the visual story. He cites design influences such as Le Corbusier and Marcel Breuer and references artists such as Donald Judd (the designer’s background, pre RISD, is in visual arts), whose aesthetics are distilled into these pieces. ‘Form and visual experience are one element of an object,’ he explains, ‘functionality is another. Form and function are not mutually exclusive, one enhances another.’

Playing on the fine line between form and function, ‘Standing Objects’ is the beginning of a larger conversation, both for the designer’s young career and for the gallery’s future design explorations. ‘This is a communicating bridge for the art I saw in design,’ adds O’Connell. ‘My goal for this series was to describe the non-visual forces of the humble phenomena present in the third dimension.’

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