‘Ingrained’, currently on display at the New York based art and design gallery Superhouse, seeks to present unique and innovative wood designs by women and non-binary designers. In an attempt to highlight their contribution towards a field that is largely dominated by men, the exhibition presents innovative and experimental woodworks by six creatives. The exhibition, on display until May 8, 2022 at Superhouse Vitrine, showcases the works of artists and designers Sarah Burns, Natalie Ochoa, Nifemi Ogunro, Isabel Rower, Myriam Simard-Parent and Shaina Tabak. The large retinue of functional and decorative objects on display at the gallery demonstrate both the creative prowess of the designers and the flexible offerings of wood as a material.
“This exhibition does not purport to be a conclusive survey of women and non-binary makers working with wood, as most of the artists and designers on view are just from New York City, but it is meant to generate discourse about the lack of representation today and in some small way work to rectify that disparity,” says Stephen Markos, founder and director of the US based gallery, Superhouse.
The exhibition serves as an ode to the women who were able to access resources and opportunities pertaining to the field only as late as the 1970s. Some of the early proponents and participants of the studio furniture world, Michelle Holzapfel, Judy Kensley McKie, Wendy Maruyama and Rosanne Somerson have served as direct or indirect influences on the artists and designers showcasing at the exhibition. The art installations at the New York gallery comprise both simple and succinct designs that can function as boxes, chairs, tables and holders as well as experimental and innovative creations that are characterised by organic forms.
Queens based artist and designer, Sarah Burns’s jewellery boxes, crafted out of pine and maple wood and finished with milk paint, cork additions and a mirror, are characterised by soft and subtle features, much like the interiors and furniture and lighting products that are otherwise designed by her.
Natalie Ochoa, who grew up in Miami and lives and works in Brooklyn now, has utilised her inclination towards spirituality to guide her artistic process. Through ‘What Works for me Might Not work for You’ an altar-like installation made using coffee-dyed raw canvas, digital embroidery, grommets, birch wood and salvaged vase, shelf and handle, and finished with acrylic paint and satin ribbon, Ochoa addresses her own anxieties and vulnerabilities, while also extending a compassionate hand to the viewers of her showcase. The wall mounted cabinet contains several found objects and is devoid of shelving boards, which leaves the functional usage of the installation open to interpretation.
Nifemi Ogunro’s minimalist ‘Tilt Stool’, made out of hand carved laminated birch and stain, is an experimentation focused on exploring the limitations of wood as a material. Ogunro regularly crafts objects by carving, bending and colouring primary materials into smooth and functional objects that, while unique and innovative in the shape they take, are characterised by traditional textures and colours.
Multidisciplinary artist Isabel Rower, currently based in Brooklyn, regularly works with ceramic and wood. Her creations generally feature abstract patterns, fluid forms and irregular shapes that are physical attempts of searching for meaning and making sense of the barrage of information disseminated regularly through phones and computers. Her showcases at the exhibition include three items, a pair of sconce light, a chair and a table. All the pieces are crafted out of laminated birchwood, with mystical patterns drawn on their surface using colour pencils. The series of objects that make up ‘Like a Tree Breathing through its Spectacles’, with their organic forms and colourful patterns, appear like they have emerged from fairy tales and mythical stories.
“Working with wood is a bit like a relationship, the more I work with the medium, the stronger my relationship is with it and the more I want to work with it,” says Myriam Simard- Parent, Montreal, based designer who is drawn to experimental works with wood since it reminds her of her childhood love of nature. Her ‘Braided Mirror’ and chequered ‘Basket with carved apples’ are all attempts to experiment with the archaic material. Sculpted out of basswood, poplarwood and cherrywood, they shift between serving as functional objects and totem pieces.
Shaina Tabak’s sculptural and textured floor lamps, crafted by combining several different kinds of woods, stretch the limits of the material to the brink. The twining cords and the heavily textured surface of the floor lamps are meticulously put together by interlocking very thin pieces of exotic woods. The thin veneer shade on these lamps helps light to diffuse easily through the room.
Superhouse is a gallery and platform that focuses on art furniture and design. Founded by Stephen Markos in 2020, it showcases both contemporary and historical works through exhibitions, digital projects and online programming. Located in New York City’s Chinatown, which is an art and design hub, the gallery space, touted Superhouse Vitrine, hosts a wide range of artists and designers. The term ‘vitrine’ refers to the gallery’s glass facade, which permits people to view showcases even while passing by the gallery.
The exhibition ‘Ingrained’ will remain on display from 1 April to 8 May 2022 at the Superhouse Vitrine in New York, United States.