These Lamps Blur the Line Between Art and Object

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By Heather Corcoran
At Brooklyn's 99¢ Plus gallery, 30 artists and designers re-imagine the lamp in an illuminating light show.

For curator Zoe Alexander Fisher, there's art in the everyday. Here, she reveals what happens when you invite 30 artists to interpret an iconic form, and makes lighting such an interesting subject. 

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The Lamp Show runs through April 10 at 99¢ Plus gallery.

How did you create The Lamp Show?

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Chen Chen and Kai Williams's Gingko Lamp combines urethane resin, wood, fabric, and acrylic in a terrazzo-like creation.

The show came from my work with HANDJOB [Gallery/Store], inviting artists and designers to experiment with a medium they haven't worked with before. So for artists, allowing them to explore what it means to make a functional object. For designers, going the other way, and what it means to make a more experimental functional object. It allows people to get weird and explore. 

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Chris Lux's Sweet Potato (yellow) blends ceramic, epoxy resin, lighting elements, and oil.

How did you choose the form of the lamp for this project? 

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The bulb takes center stage in Jessica Hans's Lava Lamp.

The lamp is a really important object in the home that can so dramatically can change a space. It's not just about an object sitting on a table, it's about what radiates out of it. 

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An artist and designer known for her exuberant multimedia creations, Katie Stout used fringe, mesh, and vinyl to create her Trojan Sconce.

It's a starting-off place, because I'm going to be doing more of these exhibitions. The next one may be a vessel exhibition—thinking about things that hold other things, things that bring life into the home, so pots and plants and vases. This is definitely the first of many. 

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Nick DeMarco's Step Lamp takes cues from architecture.

It's interesting that you describe a lamp or a vessel by its function, rather than its form.

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Henry Gunderson's plaster Floor Sample #10 take a slightly retro approach.

I'm very interested in creating objects that have some sort of influence on your daily life, and what it means if you bring an object into the home. It doesn't just sit there, it changes your space, and it changes the way you interact with your space. 

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Painter Eric Shaw's Loop Lamp is one of the few pieces in the show to riff on the traditional shade.

It seems like you approach the topic from a wide idea of functionality. It's not the dictionary definition; it's a more open interpretation. How do you define a "functional object?"

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A resin-coated mop makes up Misha Kahn's bright-yellow B.A.N.A.N.A.S, which recalls a torch, but doesn't actually give off light.

In work with HANDJOB, I pretty much allow the designers to decide what it means to them, so it's really open-ended. For me, functionality is having some use and applicability in your daily life. A necklace could be explained as having the function of changing your outfit and changing the way people think about you. A bowl, quite obviously, has a function of holding food for your to sustain yourself on. My definition of functionality is pretty open to whatever anybody else can explain it as—I like hearing other people's interpretations. 

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Neptune’s Temper by Paul Wackers is a standing sculpture assemblage.

Were there specific directions that you gave participants?

The lineup came from working with the network of people that I've either worked with or been wanting to work with for a while. I really wanted to invite people from a range of experience and whose aesthetics are really different. There's Chen Chen and Kai Williams, who are established designers, and I knew their product would be a more finished product, which it is—and it's beautiful. Then I invited artists like Chris Lux, Jessica Hans, Katie Stout—people who really make wild things in tons of different materials, and that might be a little more goofy and crazy. Then I invited some conceptual artists, who I knew would think about really what it means to make a lamp and make it in a really different way. Nick DeMarco is one artist who's more on the conceptual side. Henry Gunderson and Eric Shaw are painters. I invited people from a range of different backgrounds so I could get really different works from them.

Are there projects that surprised you?

Everyone surprised me. Misha Khan was a last minute addition, actually. I asked him a while ago and he wasn't going to be able to do it, and then contacted me the day before and said, "I have something for you! I want to be in the show." His is this amazing torch-like, not actually illuminating, object. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before of his and it just happens to be exactly the color of the yellow walls, which is great. Paul Wackers, who's a painter, did this beautiful standing sculpture, that has a large neon light on the back. I've never seen anything like that from Paul.

A lot of these people, it was a totally new process for them, and what they pulled out was totally unlike the rest of their work. There were a lot of surprises!

The Lamp Show takes place at 99¢ Plus Gallery, 238 Wilson Avenue, Brooklyn, through April 10, 2016.

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