Since opening up his chic Greene Street showroom in Soho 14 years ago, Murray Moss has endeavored to blur the line between fine art and design. His furnishings gallery—which recently opened a second location in Los Angeles—is anything but ordinary, encompassing creations that range from dashingly daring to delightfully bizarre.
Murray Moss doesn’t believe in arbitrary boundaries— least of all the one that is imagined to divide art from liv- ing. In his gallery space in New York and now at his newly opened location on Melrose Avenue, he has gathered a stable of international talents who combine craft-bench sensibility, intellectu- al rigor and high aesthetics to create furniture, jewelry and even housewares that are, without question, works of art.
Los Angeles gallery director Timothy Daly explains the Moss vision: “We are exploring the bridge between art and design; we exhibit one-off and limited edition pieces by industrial designers. Each piece, even if it’s manufactured, has a sense of the artist’s hand: they are individualized in some way—hand-finished. Because they make things that are functional, some people will think of them as design- ers or fabricators instead of artists. There has been a resistance among critics and collectors to accepting functional, utilitarian objects as fine art. If something was useful, it couldn’t be art!”
Browsing the boldly curated collection at Moss distills that notion instantly.The level of both craft and concept lavished upon otherwise ordinary objects like delicately tinted glass vases, Pop-inspired painted cabinets and sculptural furniture frees art from the constraints of the wall, the frame and the plinth, bringing it into daily life.
Among the pieces currently on display at Moss are works by Studio Job, Humber to artist Maarten Baas and Brazilian designers Fernando and Campana.
THE CAMPANA BROTHERS
Growing up in Sao Paolo, Humberto and Fernado Campana were deeply affected by the poverty of Brazil’s urban slums, which inspired their sharply honed talent for improvisation.“Everything is a collage,” Moss director Daly explains.“You had to improvise in the world they grew up in. Necessary objects were cobbled together out of whatever materials happened to be available.”
Pictured (left): Sushi chairs are made of thousands of thin strips of multi-colored textiles, including felt and rubber, bound together in tight bundles and “upholstered” onto welded iron frames. “Each bundle will open up and ‘blossom’ as you sit on it more and more,” explains Daly. Also pictured (bottom left): The Panda Bear chair is a delightful exercise in child-like wonder, con- sisting of dozens of stuffed animals arranged to create a soft, embrac- ing easy chair.
The Antwerp-based duo of Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel—a.k.a. Studio Job—has produced two collections on display at Moss’ Melrose Avenue location: Homework: Domestic Totems and Tableaux and Robber Baron.The first, a group of monumental sculptures in polished bronze, elevates ordinary, sometimes obsolete domestic objects like kettles, tea pots, coal shuttles and lanterns to heroic proportions. Placed on pedestals, these antiquated household accoutrements are magnified in both scale and significance; in the minds of Studio Job, these vintage kitchen tools cele- brate a serene domesticity that pre-dates industrialization.
Robber Baron expands on this theme, offering sly commentary on corruption, pollution and greed. Imagined as a suite of meubles commissioned by an Industrial Age robber baron, the collection consists of five pieces, each offered in a limited edition of five: a cabinet, a standing lamp, a table, a mantle clock and a jewel safe. Imposingly scaled, intricately detailed and highly polished, patinated and gilded, these pieces reflect the lavish excesses of 19th-century industrialists as well as those of their contemporary counterparts while casting an unflinching eye on the by-prod- ucts of those excesses.
Pictured: Robber Baron table, shaped like one of the “dark Satanic mills” of Blake’s poem and belching forth a cloud of polished bronze smoke.
Dutch-born Maarten Baas is best known for his “fire sculptures” like Where’s the Smoke?, in which the artist located a vintage Steinway baby grand piano, circa 1938, and torched it, rendering it still functional but dramatically transformed.
Pictured (left): In Baas’ Sculpt collection, furnishings appear at first glance as if they have been clumsily carved of wood or blocks of foam. However, they are actually composed of a highly finished metal, creating a trompe l’oeil of steel and veneer that plays with our expectations of primitivism.