Sebastian Errazuriz: Beautiful Premonitions
by Jessica Hodin, Art Advisory Associate at the Winston Art Group
(May 3, 2011) My excitement over this exhibition could not be tamed, and hours later, sitting with like-minded art world friends and ruminating over the pictures I took on my iPhone, we kept coming back to the same issue: can art be functional? Sebastian Errazuriz’s pieces are beautiful, seamlessly designed, incredibly meticulously crafted, but his body of work (and the space in which it was shown at the Cristina Grajales Gallery) induces this unavoidable debate of functionality in art. The single characteristic distinguishing art from design has always been that design objects have a function. The blurring of this line, however, has become an increasingly popular concern, and Sebastian Errazuriz is a champion of this destabilization of the difference between art and design.
Errazuriz’s furniture has a second layer of meaning and function other than its presumed purpose. There is a desk with a slanted mirror affixed to a narrow groove in the top. This mirror should be tilted to match the owner’s eyes so that whenever he sits at his desk, the place where he is meant to be pensive and reflective, he fulfills this function through literal introspection and becomes one with his work as he is reflected in his own desk.
In another piece, Errazuriz collaborated with his mentor Ross Bleckner to create a series of self-portraits under a glass coffee table. These portraits are supposed to reflect the vulnerability that an artist endures throughout his life. Even though Bleckner is a successful artist and mentor to Sebastian, as artists, they are afflicted with the same insecurities.
A stand-out piece in Beautiful Premonitions is the “Piano Shelf” which takes the idea of modular furniture to the next level. The shelf is made up of rows of pivoting wood planks that can fold up into the wall or fold out to support books and other objects. Just as most of his works are extremely tactile, so too does this shelf require a level of engagement and personal interaction from the user. As the owner molds it to his specifications, Errazuriz continues to develop this idea of reflecting the user in the functionality of his art.
Some of the more “art” focused (one might say, nonfunctional) and collaborative pieces in the show were created in partnership with New York based artist Carlton deWoody. The “Lonely Soldiers” are solitary monochromatic metal toy soldiers set inside snow globes. The small scale is powerful and emotive and captures the isolation of the soldier. These two components that are normally associated with children and playtime, are re-appropriated to evoke a much deeper sociological and emotional connection.
The exhibition title, Beautiful Premonitions, stems from the idea that Errazuriz’s pieces extend from the moment of his idea genesis. Errazuriz’s concepts, while each singular and different, all achieve a common goal to reflect the irony inherent in every object; however, they do it in a beautiful rather than subversive manner. And while the pieces are extremely thoughtful and developed, they are also so close to the original concept: the pure idea that is one part artistic and the other part functional. These pieces are not “conceptual” in the sense that they are abstract; rather their theoretical dialogue is played out in concrete forms of representation and functionality.