NEW YORK — In 2010, Japanese design house Nendo debuted the "Thin Black Lines" collection at the Saatchi Gallery during the London Design Festival. The entire collection, inspired by Japanese calligraphy and crafted entirely from black wires, had a peculiar, brain-bending effect. Look once, and they appeared two-dimensional, like lines drawn on an Etch-a-Sketch. Look again, this time from another angle, and their forms have completely changed. It’s a flabbergasting optical illusion of M.C. Escher proportions.
That should set the tone for the rest of "Triumvirate," a three-studio exhibition at Phillips de Pury's Park Avenue space, The Shop, that's setting Nendo's "Thin Black Lines" alongside the work of London's Faye Toogood and Stockholm's Humans Since 1982, making for an exceptionally quirky show. "All three of them have this unbridled fascination and curiosity in their approach that’s almost childlike," Brent Dzekciorius, Phillips’s London-based retail director who curated the show, told ARTINFO. "It's equally thoughtful and provocative and I find that curiosity to be the thread that makes the work so engaging."
Humans Since 1982 are bringing wit to the table with "Clock Clock 2," what appears from afar to be a giant digital clock, but upon closer inspection turns out to be a set of analog ones, arranged so that their hands form the lines that would make up the units of a digital display. The Stockholm studio also gives LEDs a precious treatment in "Collection of Light"; they encased them in entomologist vitrines gathered from the Stockholm Museum of Natural History, labeling and displaying them like carefully preserved butterflies rather than what they are (the lighting device of the moment).
Toogood, a former set designer who's only been making furniture for two years, is decidedly the most serious of the trio. Her collection of bronze Spade Chairs are both spare and slight, and her Elementable Tables lean toward a modernist aesthetic with their simple geometries. But the draw here is her choice of materials and experimental take on traditional crafting techniques — she uses brilliant cobalt-blue resins, and patinates steel with toxic chemicals, destroying the surface to reveal the inherent qualities of the material hidden below. Her seagreen rubber Armour Bench also looks a lot like a metal-studded cucumber.
The three of them together form Dzekciorius's "triumvirate" of design, a title he the curator gave to the sale and that he told us was really a bit of a joke. "Is there really a triumvirate in design?" he asked. "Typically it's in political circles, but I thought it would be fun to adapt [the word] for design. There's quite a bit of wit and whimsy in at least Nendo and Humans Since 1982, and I thought it was kind of nice to play off of that. Design can be taken so seriously, especially by designers."