Jeff Zimmerman’s Sculptural Lamps Gleam as Lighting Thrives in Art and Design Spheres
Walking into Jeff Zimmerman’s new show at R & Company feels a bit like entering a James Turrell exhibition. Decked in glass from floor to ceiling, the Tribeca gallery feels like the inside of a magnificent jewel box; by night, the glow spills into the street. Radiating in every direction, Zimmerman’s exuberant creations occupy the elongated space in the same way that an installation by fiber artist Eva Hesse or a wall sculpture by Michael Genovese might. Zimmerman’s organic chandeliers play against the steely staircase they tumble down. Sensitive to the gallery’s architecture yet ultimately more dedicated to the expression of a concept, Zimmerman’s lights set up relationships between objects and space with functionality lurking like a ghost in the background. It’s these conflicting qualities that blur classifications of his handiwork as either lighting or sculpture. Zimmerman’s show comes at a time when lighting is increasingly common in both design and art venues, inviting a reconsideration of an age-old question: does form follow function?
“Just because it’s light and glass doesn’t make them one or the other,” says Zimmerman, who primarily works with private clients on site-specific commissions. “They are reactions to the environment. They are more an installation than anything,” he explains. Clients and collectors are happy to embrace this ambiguity of medium. And the same ambiguity is also evident at “A Case Study in Lighting,” the current show at Seomi International in Los Angeles, where Zimmerman’s lighting is installed throughout the gallery’s case study house, a convergence of design and art in the Hollywood Hills.
Zimmerman is one of several names on R & Company’s roster that wavers between art and design, delving into lighting. The Haas Brothers’s beaded mushroom forest at the gallery’s 2015 Design Miami/ 2015 booth, for example, could easily have camouflaged itself among the immersive installations shown across the street at Art Basel in Miami Beach. Villa Design Group’s neon-lit doors at Mathew and Gavin Brown’s Karl Holmqvist light come to mind when looking at how much lighting specifically has infiltrated, not only art fairs, but the contemporary art scene at large.
“Making lamps that are more sculptural—yes it’s a trend, but Jeff’s been doing this for years,” says R & Company’s Evan Snyderman, who has hosted five solo shows with Zimmerman. “He approaches it very differently. Sculpture first, and then function. He’s actually making everything you see. What Jeff designs occupies the space in the home that is otherwise not utilized. They float.”
Zimmerman’s lighting is far from the only game in town. Currently at Anton Kern Gallery in Chelsea, art-design couple Martino Gamper and Francis Upritchard have created a compellingly domestic installation. Upritchard’s small lamps with curious faces are among the most intriguing objects on offer in the jumble. More lights turn on in New York come January 29, with curator Zoe Alexander Fisher’s “The Lamp Show” at 99¢ Plus Gallery in Bushwick. Following strong lighting shows last spring, including design whisperer Jim Walrod’s “Rad Light” show at Patrick Parrish and the Leo Fitzpatrick-curated “Marlborough Lights” at the eponymous gallery’s Lower East Side space, expectations will be high, but Fischer’s lineup looks up to the task. A whole alphabet of young artists and designers made the cut from B. Thom Stevenson to Katie Stout. The future of light in the gallery looks bright.
Jeff Zimmerman is on view at R & Company, New York, Jan. 19–Feb. 20, 2016.