Rafael Prieto’s debut solo exhibition explores connections between materials and memories

Similar Synergy

Materials and memories linger in Rafael Prieto’s exhibition Together over time at Emma Scully Gallery. Whether a linen light fixture shaped after a bone marrow that struck the designer’s attention at a dinner party or a petticoat fabric curtain sewn with replicas of clothing inspired by Prieto’s sightings of drying laundry on Neapolitan streets, textures and remembrances coalesce.

The New York–based Mexican designer’s first solo exhibition occupies the Upper East Side gallery’s main room where accents like crown molding and a fireplace hint at a domestic past. Creating the show’s nine pieces with this homey background in mind helped Prieto delve into his materials’ tactile qualities. “I could create a contrast between cold materials such as stone or glass and a warm domestic setting,” he told AN. The gallery’s eponymous owner suggests looking for a similar synergy in the materials’ relationship with one another: “There is a dynamic conversation between a bone becoming a fabric or a stone inspiring the form of a glass surface.” The dealer is referring to the small side table made with carved wood, stone, and glass cast from a stone which shares the local quarry with another piece of stone tied with rope to a kite-like lamp shade. Similar to this medley of textures, a handful of collaborators joined Prieto in the pieces’ creation, such as fashion designer Kritika Manchanda, the ceramic studio Atelier Lips, and artist Loup Sarion.

(Joe Kramm)

(Joe Kramm)

What Scully calls “the show’s tour-de-force” is a low coffee table made from cast glass, stone, wood, and ceramic inlay with help from four craftspeople. The rectangular ceramic surface with a bumpy touch sits atop glass blocks and wooden legs finished with carvings that echo the top’s surface which is accented by a ceramic molding of an article of clothing owned by Prieto’s boyfriend. The imprint of his lover indeed travels throughout the show, most vividly in a constellation of hand-broken ceramic parts molded after his denim shirts and pants.

The wallpaper, on the other hand, is also a blown-up image of the partner hiding coyly behind a replica of a Greco-Roman statue at a plaster cast art museum in Naples. For Prieto, the overall orchestration is “like a haiku where I took different fragments of my life experiences and created my own poem.” The personal on his end translates into a sense of mystery for the viewer with pieces that hold traits of a lover’s body or a past day at a niche museum, embodied in the immediacy of materials.

(Joe Kramm)

Prieto who is also the founder of New York– and Mexico City–based creative agency Savvy Studio and the boutique chocolate company Casa Bosques sees no boundaries between his passions, inspirations, and practice. “Chocolate is an ephemeral texture and pleasure while the materials in these pieces are in constant dialogue with one another,” he said.

The show’s title is an invitation to slow down to savor the amalgamation of his homages, memories, and craft. After all, the objects all salute the designer’s upbringing at a cattle ranch in Mexico where time ran at a slow pace and nature formed itself organically. “Over a massive land, moving the animals would feel like forever,” he said, “but what I called boredom then taught me to understand things like materials shape naturally over time.”

Together over time is on view at Emma Scully Gallery in New York until June 3.