Delta Wright

Interiors That Look and Feel Good

DOCENT Briefing No.7 | Sit On It

Delta Wright
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Hello and Welcome to DOCENT - your guide to design intelligence, creative solutions and earthly beauty. 

Today’s DOCENT Briefing explores the birth of modernity through the emergence of Easy Seats - and what happened next. Note: My anecdotal account of the early days of interior decoration are derived from the wonderful book by Joan DeJean entitled The Age of Comfort When Paris Discovered Casual and the Modern Home Began.

THE AGE OF COMFORT AND THE FIRST SOFAS, 1670-1720
Before Louis XIV and his mistresses began their lifestyle revolution which embraced a new comfort and casual styles, there were only a few types of furniture being used in homes. "Furniture" (from the Latinmobilis, mobile, or that which can be moved) was designed to travel when relocation became necessary due to war, famine or disease. But in seventeenth-century France, creating softened, padded, upholstered props for living became part of a flurry of furnishings innovation which brought with it a new posture and physical pose. The comfortable and expansive sofa beckoned and encouraged a behavior previously unheard-of. Reclining with legs stretched comfortably allowed for a new state of ease. Looser clothing styles even evolved to support this new way of sitting. With the advent of the sofa, the joy of lounging came to be.

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Jean-Francois de Troy The Declaration of Love c.1720
The softened wings of the sofa (called joues, or cheeks, in French) allow for a place to rest the cheek.

ICONIC CHAIRS, 1950-1970
Flash forward, the iconic chair becomes a symbol of imagination and practicality fused, becomes a relic of functionality and beauty, becomes individualist sculpture. These chairs are elemental. In the 20th century, these chairs dutifully serve their function, yet come to represent a pared-down essence and artistic flair.

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Pantone Stacking Chair ;  Eames LCW ;  Mies Van Der Rohe Barcelona Chair ;  Platner Arm Chair

THE CHAIR FOR CHAIR'S SAKE, 2019
The Chair, a current exhibit at the New York contemporary design gallery THE FUTURE PERFECT indicates that the chair has been fully liberated. Its history is no longer relevant, its function is optional and subjective. The chair can now capitalize on its integral iconic status to make a statement, to present a thought or to ask a question. Perhaps in our time, The Chair is more a modern platform for discussion -  than a seat.

As a young student, I remember my distaste when a drafting teacher looked over my shoulder at my decorative furnishings sketches. They were creative, yet admittedly a mish-mash of styles and details. There were sofas and wallcoverings, cabinets and window fashions galore. “You can’t just make them up! After all, there is nothing new under the sun”, she declared. How dare she! ... wasn’t each idea a vision newly conceived? Fresh to be explored? “She must be terribly mistaken and certainly dead inside”, I concluded.

Today I'm pleased to note, that although she was probably more correct than not, she had only been correct for about 400 years.

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DOCENT Briefing No.6 | Eye Spy

Delta Wright

Hello and Welcome to DOCENT - your guide to design intelligence, creative solutions and earthly beauty.

Today’s DOCENT Briefing highlights 5 contemporary artists that recently caught my eye. They inspire me aesthetically and intellectually. Art preferences are highly personal and each choice reveals a bit of the person’s worldview. Here is a peek into mine.

SECUNDINO HERNÁNDEZ | b. 1975 Madrid, Spain
My craft-based education reveals itself in multiple ways including my interest in process. Secundino Hernández's large-scale paintings require a process-oriented approach that involves both rehearsal and surrender. His paintings are hard to characterize, as they are hybrids of figuration and abstraction, linear draftsmanship and intuitive color painting, minimalism and gesturalism. I particularly like the architectural scale of his “washed paintings” created by layering and then removing paint with a heavy-duty pressure washer. These large-scale canvases require great physicality on the part of the artist. Wielding the industrial pressure washer to carve through layers of dried pigment to expose raw canvas is akin to sculpting. The resulting works feel archaeological, like weathered walls in an old town square or an urban area long abandoned. These paintings act like a dramatic repository of collective memories.

Images courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery

ORLAN | b. 1947 Saint-Étienne, France

The pioneering vision of French artist ORLAN has shaped pop culture from Instagram selfies to Lady Gaga (a lawsuit continues…). Her five decades of multi-disciplinary art making has revolved primarily around self portraits. To say ORLAN has taken control of her own image and body is an understatement. In the 1990’s she underwent 9 plastic surgeries to “resculpt” various facial features based on famous artworks created by male artists. ORLAN has made her body her medium as a tool for her own liberation. If a woman’s body is to be controlled by politics and religion, taking back control is an act of freedom, no? I admire her complete commitment to her art and her utter disregard for orthodoxy. Her extensive self-portraiture has given me a wider perspective on how often identity is “performed”. She challenges many preconceived notions of art making and female empowerment. ORLAN’s radical perspectives keep me on my toes.

Images courtesy the artist

CHRISTINA QUARLES | b. 1985 Chicago, Il
In contrast to ORLAN who has made a career of precisely sculpting her identity, Los Angeles based artist Christina Quarles revels in ambiguity. With painterly virtuosity, Christina captures the contradiction of her identity, appearance and beliefs. Mistaken racial and sexual identities (she is a queer-identifying African American artist with fair skin) fuel her erotically charged paintings full of converging bodies. Visually, it is often hard to tell when one figure ends and other begins, but the desirous nature of the scene is unmistakable. Her large-scale acrylic paintings feature ubiquitous humans floating amongst crisp objects and patterns. Christina’s enigmatic works can feel unsettling at times, but also an opportunity to remind myself that things are not always what they seem.

Images courtesy the artist

CHRIS ANTEMANN
My affinity for minimalism in architecture is balanced out by my love of objects with implicit narratives. I also appreciate a good sense of humor and a get a kick out of romantic fantasies, so naturally fell in love with Chris Antemann. This unique artist has taken 18th century porcelain figurines and turned them into contemporary telenovelas. Using literary techniques to frame a narrative, Chris builds layers upon layer of story details - often loaded with social parody. The artist infuses 18th century social scenes of elaborate dinner parties, picnics, garden parties and courtship rituals with her wicked sense of humor. Scantily clad male and female figures with coquettish grins set in decadent scenes of the rich and famous grace her delicately painted sculptures. While she employs Rococo aesthetics, the seductive undertones of her characters are more modern. A favorite work is Forbidden Fruit Dinner Party (2013), where socialites gather around a table snacking on ripe fruit while hungrily gazing at their male companions. I enjoy Chris’ playful approach to documenting the shifting male/female dynamic and appreciate her skill in marrying design and concept so masterfully.

Images courtesy the artist

ALEXANDRA GRANT | b. 1973 Fairview Park, OH
As a songstress I know the power of a powerful lyric to catalyze emotion, so text-based artist Alexandra Grant felt like an artistic cousin the first time I saw her work. The L.A. based artist uses language and collaborations with writers as source material for her paintings, drawings and sculptures. Alexandra’s multi-disciplinary works are less a facsimile of the source material and more maps of emotion, meaning and symbolism. Her work explores translation from text to image, from 2D to 3D, from spoken to unspoken. The images in Alexandra’s work are familiar to us, yet each of us will “read” them differently adding layers of meaning based on our own frame of reference. Much of Alexandra’s work is based on long-term collaborations, or conversations, with writers and thinkers, including the hypertext fiction of Michael Joyce, the photography of the actor Keanu Reeves, and the work of French philosopher Hélène Cixous. If you are in L.A., you have likely run across Alexandra’s philanthropic grantLOVE project, which produces and sells limited edition works to benefit artist projects and arts non-profits. These works make great gifts!

Images courtesy the artist

I hope you enjoyed learning more about art that inspires me to think and feel
more deeply. Curious to hear which one of the five was your favorite.

Until Next time -

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