The New Clarity: RISD MFA Furniture Show 2013

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Last week, a vacant industrial loft was magically transformed into an elegant gallery space for the evening, as the Rhode Island School of Design’s Department of Furniture Design celebrated its graduating Masters Candidates in a show titled, ‘The New Clarity.’

The show opened its doors in downtown Providence to members of RISD and the local community who came out to show their support. ‘The New Clarity’ exhibited the Masters’ theses of seven graduate students, featuring work by Adrianne Ho’o Hee, Elish Warlop, F Taylor Colantonio, Chen Liu, Carley Eisenberg, Simon Lowe, and Marco Gallegos, this year’s graduating Masters’ candidates of the department.

RISD2013-TheNewClarity-FTaylorColantonio-Woven.jpgWoven vessels by F Taylor Colantonio

The title of the exhibition drew its name from “Letters to a Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke:

…Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.”

Each designer took a fresh approach to that understanding, re-envisioning what furniture could be and giving a glimpse of what that development looked like on the path to their final work.

RISD2013-TheNewClarity-ElishWarlop-Divider.jpgBent-wood room divider by Elish Warlop

Pieces ranged from the bent-wood room divider above to a chair to facilitate sex with multiple partners simultaneously–running the gamut of what comes to mind (and doesn’t) when one thinks of ‘furniture design.’ The diverse array of work explored not only a new understanding, but varying motifs of tradition, from daily traditions of the everyday to ornate, woven tapestries re-imagined in plastic.

One of the most memorable pieces from the evening was the latter, the work of Colantonio, which looked at commodities of the past, seeped in ancient tradition, and adapted them utilizing contemporary tools and technologies.

RISD2013-TheNewClarity-FTaylorColantonio-PersianRug.jpgPlastic Persian carpet by F Taylor Colantonio

“Most of my work deals with historical ‘types’ of objects, at least as a point of departure,” said Colantonio. “I’m interested in taking a thing like a Persian carpet, and all the baggage that comes with it, and abstracting it beyond the qualities we would normally associate with a Persian carpet. I wanted to create a kind of a ghost of the source object, something that is both familiar and entirely strange. In many of the pieces, this is done with a shift in material, often as a result of exploiting a manufacturing method in a new way.”

RISD2013-TheNewClarity-FTaylorColantonio.jpgF Taylor Colantonio

RISD2013-TheNewClarity-FTaylorColantonio-Patterns.jpgPatterns on patterns on patterns by F Taylor Colantonio

RISD2013-TheNewClarity-MarcoGallegos-BeerBag.jpgThe Beer Bag, by Marco Gallegos

The aptly titled “Beer Bag” was part of Gallegos’ “Rethinking the Familiar” Collection, which looked to further the relationship and value people place on everyday objects. With the capacity to carry a six-pack of beer, the bag fits snugly onto one’s bike. Beer holders included.

RISD2013-TheNewClarity-MarcoGallegos-LiluTable.jpgThe Lilu Table, by Marco Gallegos

The Lilu Table is also the work of Gallegos, who sought to create a self-supporting structure, where each part provides vital support to the rest–working together as a system. The power-coated steel legs fit into the top, locking them all together in a secure fit.

The breadth of the work left little to be desired in terms of heterogeneity, leaving the future work of each designer just as varied and unpredictable as the collection produced. We’ll be eager to see what divergent paths they take after graduation this June!

DSC_0291.JPGThe Graduate Furniture class, photo by Anelise Schroeder

More photos from the opening night after the jump.

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