When I interviewed Design Miami co-founder Ambra Medda before the show, she told me that she was most excited about a display of Mexican design pieces, ranging from mid-century to the present, collected at the gallery Sebastian + Barquet of New York.
Nicolas Kilner of the gallery Sebastian + Barquet called this pyramid of designs by Pedro Friedenberg "the Shrine." It certainly has a numinous quality, albeit one cut with a proper dose of Monty Python-brand humor. It is, however, one of the better groups of work by a single designer apparent at Design Miami.
This pair of bent birch wood stools is from contemporary Mexican designer Emiliano Godoy. At around $750 each Kilner called them some of the best bargains in his show, and noted that Godoy is one of the best living Mexican furniture designers. Made of a typically overlooked material, the undulations of the stool tops are quite appealing.
This sextet of chairs caused a bit of controversy with regards to attribution. The Design Miami powers that be say that architect Luis Barragan never designed any furniture, yet Kilner assured me they came from the master's hand. So in the interest of splitting the difference, let's call them, as Kilner has, "a set of chairs from Luis Barragan's Casa Prieto Lopez." Either way, their utterly lovely.
I was especially fond of this zigzagging screen by Matthias Goeritz. Goeritz worked with Barragan on many of his interiors, and the richness of the wood here shows why. The large light sculpture just beyond the screen is by Jan Hendrix.
Think Latin America meets 2001. This unnamed prototype chair by Arturo Pani hails from some point in the 1970s and is made of fiberglass. Kilner encouraged me to sit in the chair, though not for too long. It seems that as a prototype not all the engineering was worked out, causing the chair to bow a bit at its center split. If not the ideal set, it certainly will make a statement in any living space.
Though I don't have any Pink Floyd posters in my house, I do have a soft spot for these hand chairs from Pedro Friedenberg. Fittingly, Friendeberg's other work is as a surrealist painter and architect. I don't believe that this palm seat was made of palm wood, but as spots for sitting go, this is your right hand chair.
This butterfly chair, also by Pedro Friedenberg, hails from the 1980s. I'm not totally sold on it, myself, but as an exemplar of his surrealist style, little is better.
This is my favorite of the Friedenberg canon on display. An R. Crumbian clock with both hands and feet, as you move around the dial the hours are represented with more and more fingers. Once you get to 12 they are too many to count, but certainly convey the point that the hour is growing late. You can't see it in this photo, but the back of hte clock, where the legs meet the torso, is, naturally, a pair of buttocks.
I first became acquainted with the work of American-born designer Don Shoemaker a few months back at the San Francisco Modern show. Sebastian + Barquet had three lovely pieces from the man, who relocated to Mexico to work with tropical hardwoods. This chair is made of one of his favorite materials, cocobolo wood.
The organic curves of this loveseat from Don Shoemaker fits nicely with the chair from the previous slide. It too is made of cocobolo, a wood in the rosewood family, though not nearly as threatened environmentally. The wood is very hard, so hard that Shoemaker imported top-of-the-line Swiss tools to carve it.
I think this is my favorite of the Don Shoemaker pieces. Kilner called it the "X Chair," and considering it's little more than two large slabs of cocobolo, it's hard to argue. What was most surprising, however, was how shockingly comfortable it is. Shoemaker hit just the right angle so as to give one a sense of being both reclining and erect. I could have sat there all day.
I too was intrigued and made a point of stopping in. I had a chat with Nicholas Kilner of the firm and he walked me through the work of several Mexican designers, some of whom I knew well--Luis Barragan--and others--Emiliano Godoy--whom I'd never heard of at all. Quite a solid show, all told, and one that certainly furthered my design education. Have a look at the slideshow for a wonderful little primer of the best of Mexican design.