“Look at a [Paul] Evans forged-front console, and anyone who is trained in welding or in metalwork will tell you that everything that’s done on it is wrong,” design dealer Todd Merrill told Artsy. It’s this masterful disregard for the rules, and superb ability to transform material, that made the 20th-century designer so successful—and it’s also these factors that tie him to contemporary designer Joseph Walsh. “What’s in common...is how they push the material beyond its normally accepted limits,” Merrill explains; what Evans did with metal, Walsh is now doing with wood. Alongside the legendary Biennale des Antiquaires this September, this dynamic pairing takes the spotlight in Paris as Todd Merrill Studio Contemporary partners with Tajan auction house to mount a major exhibition, “Paul Evans and Joseph Walsh: Two Masters.”
“Paul Evans, early on in his career, at the same [point that] Joseph is in his career right now, was producing things that were shockingly new and different, as Joseph is doing now,” Merrill explains. Evans was something of a design polymath; his prolific three-decade-long career was marked by legendary collections, each one different than the next, from his silvery, patchworked “Argente” series to his disco-era “Cityscape” works—sleek, angular forms covered in mirrored surfaces. Highlights in the Parisian exhibition are some of his best-known works; prime examples of his forged bronze and steel cabinets and consoles. Free Form Sculpted Bronze Wall-mounted (1972) is an incredible free-form, wall-mounted bronze cabinet, which is one of two known consoles of its kind—the other is owned by Lenny Kravitz, an avid Evans collector. Another rare work, Studio Forged-Steel Sculpted low table (1965), features the intricate painted treatment of Robert Thompson—a frequent Evans collaborator who went by Bobby Cool—and is, according to Merrill, a signature example of his best work.
Young Irish designer Joseph Walsh, who we caught up with last spring, has become known for his graceful “Enigmum” series—sinuous beds, chairs, and tables that reference the natural world. He poses a striking contrast to Evans, with works formed from winding strips of Ash that appear to defy the properties of wood, resembling nimble creatures and meandering plantlife. Most impressive are his monumental canopy beds, dreamlike swirls of wood and drapery that appear to have emerged from a fairytale. As Walsh makes his own debut in Paris, he will also unveil a work from his new collection, “Lumenoria,” which combines his signature treatment of wood with poured acrylic resin. “The way that Joseph has treated this material and combined it with wood really [has] never been done before,” Merrill explains. “Nobody has ever poured resin over wood and allowed the material to sort of find its way in the way that he does.” This simultaneous celebration and tension created through material bind Evans and Walsh together, and now, with this temporary exhibition, the dialogue between the two has been ignited and deserves to be continued.
“Paul Evans and Joseph Walsh: Two Masters” is on view at Espace Tajan, Paris, Sept. 8th–20th, 2014.