Most Recent Work

  • The return of Memphis: how the 80s design staple found a new audience

    Memphis: the trend so nice, I covered it twice. Round II is up at the Guardian. And a supercut of favorite lines from the cutting room floor is below. Choose your own adventure. 

    Memphis, if you’ve never heard of it, is a lot like pornography—you know it when you see it.

    It was a stack of slanted rows of cheap plastic laminates masquerading as a bookshelf; it was the merciless pairing of surface patterns inspired by terrazzo flooring, ancient ziggurats, and bacteria; it was a cacophonous palette of primary reds, lemon yellows, and an array of neons piled high onto black-and-white stripes.

    In 1969, his Stockholm exhibition “Landscape for a Fresh Planet” featured “Altar: For the Sacrifice of My Solitude (Before It is Desecrated by the Deceit of Politics),” a cluster of ceramic totems Larsen describes casually as “a sociopolitical statement that uses the material culture of religions.”

    During his 60-year career, he poured these experiences into a range of vessels, from 1955 aluminum Raymor vases that recall the sculptures of Alexander Calder, to the unmistakably penis-shaped 1973 “Shiva” for BD Barcelona.

    The ’70s had been mired by war, recession, and the oil crisis, but for this newly prosperous society primed to embrace high and low aesthetics, garishness, synthetics, the melodrama of Miami Vice and a proliferation of cocaine, Sottsass was finally able to turn all the way up.

    By the late 90s, DayGlo’s afterglow ultimately faded, leaving an epically vapid kind of mediocrity in its wake. The aftershocks of a bomb Cara Greenberg dropped 1983 were finally catching up. The design historian had coined the term “midcentury modernism” as the title for a book on 1950s furniture, and a magazine called Wallaper* introduced a maturing Generation X, ready to shed the plaids of grunge and adopt a more respectable, grown-up aesthetic, to the works of George Nelson. In 2000, there was Dwell, which means by the time Mad Men had come around there was no turning back: midcentury modern had cemented itself as the look that would never die.

    Today, midcentury modern and Memphis are kind of managing the zeiteist not as antagonists, but more like bookends holding our contemporary nebulous aesthetic fixations upright; a ying to a yang, vanilla ice cream to some kind of crunchy, synthetic spicy-sweet topping. At the moment, the last two decades haven’t materialized any defining caricatures of themselves. Will we be remembered as a generation of globally-appealing anonymity? Or perhaps of nostalgic revivals? While we can’t see it while we’re still in it, what’s sure is that there’s been no single defining protagonist on Sottsass’s level since Sottsass. There may never be one again.

  • Enlightened

    I was kind of blown away by Aaron Moulton's audacious and esoteric style of curating. I wrote it for Cultured's summer issue, and you can read it below. 

    HED Enlightened

    DEK Venus LA creative director Aaron Moulton casts art in a more cosmic light.

    Recently, a few angry art enthusiasts have been sending Los Angeles gallerist Mihai Nicodim hate mail.

    “People want to be removed from my mailing list for our audacity to show a Thomas Kinkade painting on a Mungo Thomson mural,” says the owner of Nicodim Gallery, describing a stroke of subversive genius by curator Aaron Moulton. In May, given Nicodim’s full, albeit blind, support, Moulton presented “The Basilisk,” a group show focused on the aesthetics of spiritual enlightenment. There were works by Lita Albuquerque and Diana Thater, both of whom regularly depict celestial bodies, plus pieces by a few generally less celebrated artists: one painter who depicts biblical stories for what they truly are—a series of alien abductions—or Unarium, a Southern California institution devoted to channeling past lives. “Perseverance,” the 2000 Thomas Kinkade painting in question, was mounted on a galactic Mungo Thomson mural as if it were wallpaper.

    Moulton remains unfazed by the backlash.

    “I think in our art world culture, there’s a mediocrity contest happening,” he says one afternoon at VENUS Los Angeles, Nicodim’s neighbor across the street, where he’s been creative director since January. “It’s neutering risk and really going towards satisfying everyone. Like warm porridge.”

    At VENUS, Porridge is certainly not what Moulton plans to serve. His curatorial practice has long involved occult references and outer-art-world phenomena, from his time as curator in the Mormon capital of Salt Lake City to his three years at Gagosian Beverly Hills (which brought the start of his career as a Gagosian Chelsea receptionist full circle).

    “I do a lot of shows that are about psychological or psychiatric pursuits of energy, and I work in a cult, essentially: the art world,” he says. He describes his first L.A. show, 2014’s “Clear,” as “an effort to secretly do a show about Scientology.” The artists ranged from James Turrell and De Wain Valentine to the late self-proclaimed psychic Ingo Swann, who was also level OT 7 Scientologist. Moulton effectively recast the Light and Space movement as a form of science fiction, emphasizing Turrell’s aesthetic links to astral projection.

    Moulton’s goals for VENUS are decidedly more grounded; he’s going to continue the gallery’s current program of playing “lost and found with art history,” which this summer includes a show of six late-career female artists who depict the vagina in their studio practice. Appropriately—or rather, inappropriately—it’s going to be called “Cunt.” Moulton claims that his interest in esoterica has started to wane as its profile becomes more mainstream. “Once Frieze and Artforum start showing what’s happening on the esoteric calendar, the game is up,” he says. But mysticism is already on the horizon for 2018; he’s currently planning a show of pascALEjandro Jodorowsky, the collaborative art practice between acclaimed director and iconic mystic Alejandro Jodorowsky and his wife, the visual artist and designer Pascale Montandon Jodorowsky.

    VENUS owner Adam Lindemann describes Moulton as “artist and a curator wrapped in one,” a sentiment echoed by Nicodim.

    “He had these great ideas looking for a stage, and just like with my artists I felt compelled to offer him the gallery as a blank canvas,” he says. “What’s surprising about Aaron’s shows is the intensity at which they’re experienced. There are those coming back again and again, leaving with the feeling that there’s so much more they ‘didn’t get.’”

  • Cut and Paste

    Johnny Smith's Instagram-based practice is amazing. I just wish his name possessed a greater SEO. Read about him in the inaugural issue of LALA. 

  • Conquering Custom: For Arktura, No Ceiling Is Out of Reach

    I wrote a profile on a trio of very talented, kinda mysterious custom architectural solutions designers for Metropolis. They were so secretive that I've got this sneaking suspicion they're secretly ex-government operatives who specialize in weapons of mass destruction, or former iPhone engineers who hold the keys to all our private information. There's nuclear codes hidden in their factory somewhere...