The careful fusing of natural wood and cast bronze produces a happenstance burnt-finish that craft-led designer Valentin Loellmann embraces when creating bespoke furniture pieces. In fact, the Maastricht-based German artisan rarely begins a new piece based on preliminary sketches. Rather, he allows the material and a bit of experience-driven technical expertise to drive his process. Though Loellmann composes sculptural works with a tabula rasa approach, they often take on the shape and reference of furniture archetypes: a Shaker-style chaise-lounge, airplane-wing-like bench, monolithic table, towering armoire, amoebic ladder, strategically-jointed chair, and even a semi-circular staircase.
Currently on view at New York’s Twenty First Gallery, in partnership with Paris-based collectible design purveyor Galerie Gosserez, Loellmann’s first solo show in this city, presents a robust selection of monumental pieces, all somehow coated in a layer of iridescent copper or cast bronze. Patinated surfaces and marble slabs are encapsulated in organically-carved yet suggestively-angular dark wooden frames.
One particular table is topped with a bed of deep-blue resin. This semi-translucent layer offers a peculiar optical effect as it interacts with the skin of the massive brass base below. Though first impressions of this cumulative collection might indicate a level of controlled minimalism or the reinterpretation of the opulent French Art Deco style, popular these days, the true quality of this oeuvre becomes evident on closer inspection.
Loellmann’s particular strain of craft-led experimentation is seemingly discrete. He sees himself as a removed observe, assessing how people and objects interact in space; how the properties of air, light, materiality, and emotion can either affect harmony or tension. This holistic vision is associated with the consideration of space. The designer’s response is to carefully appease or alter perception. Loellmann’s challenge is to translate ethereal concepts into tangible form which he achieves through the mastery of different artisanal techniques and an intrinsic understanding of material.
Each new endeavor is informed by the last and builds on an aggregated body of knowledge. This assemblage of work reveals a running thread; the almost metaphysical alloying of matter. Noble composites like marble and wood are fused with precious metals in circumspect compositions. The question of whether or not its adjacency—placing two elements side by side—or synthesis—the full integration of two seemingly disparate components—remains unanswered.
The collection on view—comprised of both new and old pieces—plays on the contradiction of the refined formal language of furniture typologies with that of wild, unconstrained nature, all encapsulated within Loellmann’s expressive vision. Highlights include Steps 1×12, a sculptural staircase of mirror polished stainless steel and crotch walnut; Blue Brass, a stunning coffee table in resin and massive brass; Brass bench in walnut and massive brass; Copper sideboard in charred wood and patinated copper; and Steps 2/6 in copper and charred walnut.
Loellmann likes to think of his work as rhizomatic in the sense that it bursts from an underground net of lines until it creates a shape. Each creation is meticulously thought through, from the authenticity of textures and materials to the smallest details – edges, undersides, joints, and hinges. Often, different types of material are used to delineate perpendicular surfaces as to better suggest geometry and function. These shapes are constantly evolving into new works so that he never knows exactly what they are going to be.
Valentin Loellmann’s solo show remains on view at Twenty First Gallery—76 Franklin St, New York—till July 19th.