The absence of virtually all design shows for the year 2020 (Salon Art + Design, Architectural Digest Home Show, ICFF, and on and on) — which was probably my least favorite Covid cancelation — serves as the inspiration for Friedman Benda’s latest exhibit: What Would Have Been, which I visited a few weeks ago to get my design-fix on! The exhibition gives fans access to design that lost its intended platform; works shown briefly before museum doors closed or failed to open at all. A favorite piece in the gallery (and not just because it’s pink) was Chris Schank’s Grotto Mirror — which may look familiar to some readers.
The Grotto Mirror is part of Schanck’sUnhomely collection, which employs his Alufoil method of sculpting industrial and discarded materials, covering them in aluminum foil and then sealing each with resin.
Grotto Mirror Installation View
Each mirror is a unique piece and would surely be the center of attention in any room!
What caught my eye immediately on flyers for the 2019 edition of The Salon Art + Design show was the included image of a vibrant Pink version of Chris Schanck’s Puff and Stuff Chair (2019). With it its quilted, glossy velvet upholstery and biomorphic sculptural base comprised of steel, aluminum, polystyrene, polyuria, aluminum foil and resin, the chair manages to look both organic and highly stylized simultaneously. The Pink Puff and Stuff Chair became my number-one-must-see item at the fair, but sadly my dream was not fully realized.
Puff and Stuff Chair Installation View
Friedman Benda, who represent the designer, chose to display Puff and Stuff only in a Sage Green. I was disappointed, sure; but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to write about the chair. Because, look at how awesome it is.
It looks like the walls of a futuristic space cave — and please note that no two are alike. These chairs and the accompanying peach-hued pedestal table are inspired by Schanck’s2018 solo exhibit at Friedman Benda entitled Unhomely, which focused on the designer’s acclaimed sculptural approach.
Unhomely featured 15 works with independent, stand-alone narratives woven into an otherworldly landscape. Synthesizing premeditation and spontaneity, Schanck’s highly individualized, low-tech, idiosyncratic technique, Alufoil (in which industrial and discarded materials are sculpted, covered in aluminum foil and then sealed with resin) was conceived in 2011 during his MFA studies. The process begins with Schanck’s imaginative drawings and models, which are then executed by a team of artists and collaborators apprenticed in his Alufoil method.
Hybrids of sculpture and furniture, Schanck’s bold constructions blend biomorphic forms with elaborately crafted symbolism. These assemblages draw from a wide range of influences ranging from Brutalist and Art Deco architecture to ancient Egyptian, Anatolian and Aztec iconography. Skirting the line between refinement and camp, Schanck’s figurative, at times anatomical, creations reference science fiction films and conjure up visions of ancient aliens, hidden cavernous chambers, and monolithic space operas.
Despite overt references to fantasy and meta-fiction, Schanck’s assemblages are grounded in the reality of humanity’s relentless inventiveness. “In my work,” the Detroit native admits, “I take inspiration from the people and forms around me and dip them into a futuristic skin.”
Photographed in the booth for Friedman Benda at the Salon Art + Design 2019 in NYC.