People talk about the California design movement as if it still isn’t happening. Not that Ray and Charles Eames or Sam Maloof are still around, crusading with young woodworkers for attention to their design but that same sprit of craft and making still exists and in some ways is having a renaissance in Los Angeles. You can see this happening everywhere, from shopping events like Unique LA to design retrospectives like California Design to people like Woodsmithe making a living from their design work in wood. The current landscape in modern craft and design is incredibly varied and very fascinating and, if Fifth Floor Gallery‘s little Craft + Design show is indication of anything, it’s going in some pretty wild directions.
The show is a little showing of various design voices with a specific eye on obstacles facing them. These are things like mass production of products and sustainability, general business and trying to make something that is truly different. There are lot of answers to these questions on view in Fifth Floor’s bite-sized gallery and many invite you to take a seat (although you probably should not: these pieces are only for looking, unless you want to take them home with you).
Curated by Steffi Dotson of the Furniture Society and conducted as a part of their recently passed late June symposium, the works on view range from practical seating to fancy, playful chairs that you would rarely settle into. Greg Laird’s dining set (top) and Cameron Helvey’s white and woody desk and chair provide user friendly alternatives to home furnishing, adding small twists on classic forms. Oddity steps in from pieces like Alison McLennan’s sleepy triplets ZZZ Nest (below)–objects you’d likely place things on, but never would sit on–and the absolutely wild Wing Chair (above) by Jason McCloskey, something that you’d want to place in a corner behind velvet ropes for no one to touch.
There are some pieces that beg to be played with, existing as almost tongue-in-cheek entries into design. Sophie Glenn’s little bronze chairs are likely the most notable example of this as they are palm sized seats in the form of iconic chairs, all of which would be perfect for a tea party attended by mice. Knotwork Los Angeles’ Child’s Rattles hang above the Wing Chair, resonating a similar feeling as the bronze chairs: they are ornamental objects that–while assumedly filled with mung beans–you’d never actually give a child this to play with because it’s too gorgeous of an object. Seth Keller’s Blocks follow this and is the most playful, colorful piece in the show.
Although everything here has a different function, everything is designed for just that: to function, which is the object of design. Even if there is a paper on it or it’s being suspended from the ceiling, everything here is doing something. You see that design now is still as earthy and handmade as its always been but the forms and materials have shifted toward a more polished, pristine format. Designers of yesteryear, the icons of making who we dedicate shows to all the time, would likely not be surprised at what their followers have made: tables and chairs that further investigate how we live with objects. Craft + Design illustrates the advances we’ve made with an eye toward cleverness, preciousness, and innovation.
Craft + Design will be on view through August 3. You can catch it on view now at Fifth Floor, located at 502 Chung King Court in Chinatown. Get more on the show here.