Ceramics and West Coast Design Flourish at FOG Design+Art
On the official opening day, I found gallerists slowly perking up after their first cup of coffee. “Last night was fun,” was the first thing many people said to me (most of the dealers had spent the evening at the fair’s annual preview gala, which benefits SFMOMA). The event sounded like a ritzy, social evening filled with jubilant pleasantries—most of the dealers I spoke with were optimistic about sales, though only a modest number of pieces had sold during the first hours of the fair (perhaps the tamer SF equivalent of the New York fairs where work flies off the wall in the first ten minutes). I caught the tail end of a panel discussion—whose speakers included Yves Béhar and Jonathan Olivares—about the relationship between art and design, a conversation about function, form, process, and inspiration. During the Q&A, a granddaughter of
Digesting this concept, I wandered to Colpa Press’s booth, where I found fun and affordable risograph prints designed by Nathalie du Pasquier. Her association with the Memphis Group—which, despite being a design and architecture collective, was strongly influenced by visual art movements—inspired the publishing company to collaborate with her. At Edward Cella’s booth, I chatted with the L.A.-based gallerist about
Overall, I was struck by the presence of ceramics at FOG, which is not all that surprising given the west-coast-heavy roster. Ceramics drive a delicate balance between form and function, craft and fine art, and possess quite the history in California. From an understated display of works from an exhibition at Los Angeles Valley College featuring historical female icons impressive presentation of work by Los Angeles-based artist Matthias Merkel Hess, these artists transform the ordinary into works of art, inciting a conversation around our personal relationship to everyday objects.
At Salon 94’s booth, Ratio 3 are rendered such that they appear as if they were made of concrete. The small architectural pieces appear weighty and brute, a material feat on its own. Another gem is Sara VanDerBeek’s Chorrera (2014), tucked away in Altman Siegel’s booth. Her blue-tinted, digital C-print portrays a geometric vessel created and used by an indigenous Ecuadorian community that flourished between 1300 and 300 B.C. VanDerBeek captures a rare cubist-looking shape possessing a modern sensibility—a prescient design invoking a sense of wonder about its origin.
There are several booths-at-large that stand out. Jessica Silverman curates her space like an exhibition; its title, “The Medium is the Message,” is emblazoned in vinyl on the center wall of her booth, which features works by Friedman Benda—from wallpaper and tile flooring to ceiling fans and functional stools, the booth is packed high and low with Kahn’s creations, which are available at a range of prices. This immersive environment of art and design objects is akin to an oasis, or perhaps a mirage, in the middle of the pavilion.
Lauren Kalman’s series “But if the Crime is Beautiful… Composition with Ornament and Object” pulled me into Sienna Patti Contemporary immediately. At first blush the pieces parallel—in form and color—the golden lamps and ornamentation accompanying beautiful wood furniture filling many of the booths at FOG. Looking closer, the golden form in Kalman’s composition is a human body; the corporeal is rendered like a precious object, abstracted through pose and positioning. Kalman offers an elegant and striking critical perspective on the cultural and psychological relationship design has played in shaping society by creating beautiful objects herself. Across the booth is
Overall FOG exemplified that weaving art and design together can create a fabric worthy of embracing, but showed, too, the beauty found in calling attention to the frays and fringes. I have to say, I’m looking forward to next year.