Throughout its lifetime, the New York gallery Friedman Benda has made supporting both established and emerging design-focused artists its calling card. Its latest duo of exhibitions is no different. Opening this week, the gallery dedicates its ground floor space to the design pioneer Ron Arad. Focused on Arad’s early sculptural work, made between 1985-1994, ‘Fishes and Crows’ is the designer’s first solo exhibition at the gallery space since 2008.
In contrast, the young British artist Jonathan Trayte takes over Friedman Benda’s basement Project Space with a landscape of colourful and surreal works that reference familiar objects in your typical living, eating and sleeping quarters. Entitled ‘Fruiting Habits’, Trayte’s provocations towards these everyday shapes reveal his background in sculpture and metalwork, along with his sense of humour. Each refreshing interpretation of domesticity merges a wide range of materials like wood, bronze, leather and marble with flashes of glossy paint, bright colours and tubes of neon. Forms range from the functional to the gourmand, such as large melons, gourds, confections and slices of deli meats (Trayte was also previously a chef), imbuing the creations with a lighthearted touch.
‘The work that I tend to make comes together all at once, like a cast of characters,’ Trayte says. ‘There’s always some weird older brother, the “black sheep”, that doesn’t quite fit.’ While Trayte’s quirky world is a dramatic foil to Arad’s freely sculpted works, their shared flair for experimentation seamlessly bridges the gap between the two shows.
This particular decade in Arad’s career saw the designer eschew machine tooling for a more expressive approach to metal. Aided by tools such as a metal compactor, hand welder and a rubber-headed hammer, Arad created armchairs, tables and screens out of gestural pieces of wielded metal – all in opposition to the slick polish of the Memphis movement in Milan. Postmodern and infused with a subversive sense of humours, these pieces are the precursors to the more sophisticated forms that Arad began exploring in the late 1990s that ultimately evolved into how we know him today.
515 W 26th St
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Pei-Ru Keh is a former US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru held various titles at Wallpaper* between 2007 and 2023. She reports on design, tech, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru took a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars, actively seeking out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.
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