When does design become art, and when is art design? Hybridity is the mixing of mediums and disciplines, which ultimately leads to innovation. Also known as a mash-up or re-mix, familiar forms and materials are reinvented through juxtaposition and re-contextualization, ultimately resulting in more emotionally evocative and sensual work.
Design Miami, a show that runs tandem with Art Basel in Miami each December on the north end of the Miami Beach Art Deco district, did not disappoint. It promises some of the best contemporary design objects money can buy, and it delivers. The following are some of my favorite pieces:
“black gold” objects by quintus kropholler
Ancient and innovative—familiar elements emerge out of darkness and the effect is at once luxurious, mysterious, and seductive. Kropholler has reinvented concrete by removing the cement part and replacing it with bitumen.
Black gold indeed, bitumen is extracted from crude oil, which is referred to by the same moniker. Kropholler uses both the natural high gloss and matte properties of bitumen to artistic advantage. Using blue stone from Holland and pink stone from England, the piece of aggregate is framed like a diamond in a velvet ring box.
fragments by lex pott and fragments wallpaper by calico wallpaper
Stories in stone—like the sky over the ocean cascading white light falls into the deep azure, Callico Wallpaper creates a ceiling to floor ombre of ground pigments (pictured at left). For centuries untold, artists have hand-ground stone to a fine powder, which is then called pigment. It is mixed with crushed mica to add shimmer. Artists Nicolas and Rachel Cope brush the rainbow of hues from light to dark on linen panels. With walls like these it is a travesty to put furniture in front of it!
However, the best furniture you could pick to pair with it is the sculptural work of Dutch designer Lex Pott. Using Belgian blue stone (the same used in the Copes’ wallcovering), Pott tells a story about extraction and refinement with the Fragment series of tables. Finely honed marble emerges from rough-hewn cleaves of rock. Both the blue stone and the marble come from the same quarry and serve as a testament of place as well as time. thefutureperfect.com.
cangaco collection by campana brothers
Fashion in a head-on collision with furniture—the latest collection by the infamous L’Enfant’s terrible Campana Brothers derives its inspiration from the swashbuckling, horse-riding bandits of 19th-century Brazil. Think Captain Jack Sparrow meets Roy Rogers. Billy the Kid only dreamed of such cowboy finery. Ornamentally tooled leather applique in psychotropic colors is emblazoned with brass studs, the only thing missing is fringe.
functional ceramics by cody hoyt
Modern, luxurious, and architectural. Known as a painter, Cody Hoyt has developed a technique for drawing with clay (pictured below). Tessellated shapes are fit together like a jigsaw puzzle and formed into slabs that are then fabricated into larger constructions. It’s a labor-intensive way of making pattern but one that allows for a special purity of color and richness of surface.
furniture by brian thoreen
Offering functional modernism with a material twist, the furniture of Los Angeles designer Brian Thoreen creates a simultaneous synesthetic blending of sensual experiences, at once manly and monumental, yet approachable and polished (pictured above). They look one way but feel another. The shapes seem simple but the delicate balance of elements is quite complex. Nothing is as it immediately seems and yet there is an inherent and rare beauty that makes us want to stare forever.
The bombe façade on the rubber credenza collapses to double as the door handles. The surface has a molten look but is soft and almost squishy to the touch. The top of the mixed marble coffee table is a modern composition Frank Stella would have appreciated, but when the stone top is paired with the silicon bronze base it appears almost delicate. These pieces promise a pleasure in use and a joy to live alongside.
afreaks collection by the haas brothers
The Haas Brothers operate on the avant-garde edge of a long line of designers who explore fantasy as a motivation for design. They create another world, one complete with its own unique life forms.
The fraternal twins Nikolai and Simon teamed up with the Monkeybiz crafting collective from Cape Town, which is known for accomplished beading techniques. Fanciful creatures scamper under giant mushrooms. Every surface is lush, with dense beading literally raising from the surface in dimensional patterns. This is contrasted with polished bronze elements in a happy world you won’t want to leave too quickly.
laquer and mother of pearl objects by kang myung sun
Najconchilgi is the Korean art of mother of pearl surfaces. Kang Myung Sun moves this ancient technique forward by creating never-before-thought-possible forms. Her objects are exercises in undulating surfaces. Once flat as a pancake, they are transformed into voluminous solids, bending planes, and wavy edges. Her shapes actually maximize the natural luster of the material. She pairs mother of pearl with lacquer contrasting dense opacity with luxurious sheen, highlighting the inherent properties of each material.
furniture by kim sang hoon
Furniture designers have long let architecture inform their forms, and Kim Sang Hoon’s work is no exception. The difference is that he utilizes the most cutting-edge architectural ideas about transforming volume through autogenic means. He is interested in marrying differences: the outdoors and the indoors, the macro and the micro, one material with another. The pairing provides new emotional context. His coffee table looks like a map of landscape with the glass-mimicking pond: water meets land, glass meet steel, and we see the world anew. seomiinternational.com.
architectural ceramics by lee hung chung
Lee Hung Chung is both architect and practitioner of a traditional Korean ceramic technique and his work is a true marriage of those disciplines. As far as hand-formed ceramics go, his work is massive in scale, pushing the boundaries of the medium: oversized benches and stools, a solid bathroom sink pedestal and bowl, and a luxurious, deep bathtub.
The ceramics are considered to be of the buncheong ware type, which is characterized by a relatively coarse gray body embellished in various fashions with white slip, and covered in green-tinted semi-translucent glaze. Buncheong ware has been prized in Korea since the 14th century, but no one used the material to achieve monumental scale until Chung. His use of glaze is notable; he is as much a fine painter as he is an architect and ceramicist.