When founder of TRNK NYC Tariq Dixon first decided to stage an exhibition dedicated to studio-made objects, pre-pandemic, the initial intention was to add another chapter to his existing offering. TRNK, which was founded in 2013, is well known as a digital platform for covetable design, and recently made moves towards a bricks and mortar presence with the opening of a residential-style showroom/gallery in New York last November.

Dixon’s inaugural exhibition, ‘Rend’, which features an international group of newly commissioned and limited edition pieces, would have served as a poignant counterpoint to TRNK’s well-honed assortment of furniture and accessories, that also includes in-house product line known as TRNK Collection.

In the wake of Covid-19, Dixon, like so many others, has had to modify his plans. In the weeks since New York went into lockdown, Dixon went from harbouring hopes of still being able to present the exhibition in person in the summer, to deciding to pursue the virtual route instead.

stool
Chair in stone
Above, stools by Disciplina Studio. Below, Stone chair by Sisan Lee

‘Rend’ by TRNK exhibition in film

Initially slated to coincide with Frieze New York, ‘Rend’ is being unveiled digitally this week, most excitingly in a specially created virtual environment. Produced in collaboration with the Berlin-based artist Hannes Lippert of Form & Rausch, a fictitious surrealistic backdrop sets a poetic tone for the equally dynamic creations of four designers – artists Sisan Lee and Fict Studio both from Seoul, Disciplina Studio from Mexico City and TRNK Collection.

‘I actually became excited by the idea of re-conceiving the concept into the digital format,’ Dixon says. ‘The environment that we produced with Form & Rausch is very similar to how I dreamed of presenting these products but never could have been realized in a physical form. It became a collaborative exercise of imagination with no limitations.’

Conceptually, ‘Rend’ explores the universal pairing of metal and stone through each designer’s eyes. Whether its Sisan Lee’s architectural furniture that pairs roughly hewn stone with untreated stainless steel, or Fict Studio’s combination of opaque marble and planes of translucent resin, each of the pieces exhibited is a study in contrasts, be it hard and soft, rigid and flexible, and blurs the line between design and art in the best ways possible.

‘The exhibition celebrates the endless bounds of these age-old materials – accomplished in some cases by simply embracing the material’s natural imperfections, [and] in other cases by doing the same in combination with man-made materials and modern techniques,’ Dixon says, ‘I was seeking designs that evoked feelings you wouldn’t expect.’

Chair on steel legs
Side table

Above, Chair by TRNK Collection. Below, Side table by Fict Studio

While seeing the pieces in person would have undoubtedly been arresting, the underlying tensions of the objects are now enhanced even more through the creation of a video that places the viewer into Form & Rausch’s otherworldly landscape. Composed to pit the contemporary metal and stone forms against classical architectural elements, the result is an evocative, dream-like setting.

‘I like[d] the feeling and characteristic of old thermal bathhouses or hammam,’ says Lippert of Form & Rausch. ‘These places are fulfilled with peace and silence, which helps highlight the chosen art pieces in a clean, quiet surrounding.’

Dixon adds, ‘The video was created to offer a sense of voyeurism and movement throughout the space, including more unusual vantage points. It also allowed us to create a more controlled narrative for defining how the different products relate to one another. The individual environments mostly house works by a single designer, but the video editing allowed us to create different layers of interaction between products.’

Above all, the ultimate result of this experience has driven Dixon to retool the way forward. ‘This process has really pushed me to reconsider how we approach many aspects of our business - circumstances created by the pandemic and beyond,’ he shares. ‘It’s a daunting, but exciting challenge.’ §