Love It or Leave It

During NYC Design Week, we visited Gallery R’Pure to check out the Love It or Leave It exhibition. Last year’s touching tribute to Tobias Wong called Brokenoff Brokenoff had me excited to see what Gallery R’Pure cooked up this year.

The idea behind the exhibition was to revisit the objects and symbols that have forged the American landscape, except seen from the personal perspective of the designer. Reinterpretations of iconic Americana forces viewers to consider what the American life is, whether real or perceived…

The all-star lineup included Lindsey Adelman, Brad Ascalon, Joe Doucet, Sebastian Errazuriz, Josée Lepage, Paul Loebach, Frederick McSwain, Alissia Melka-Teichroew, Marc Thorpe, and David Weeks.

Descriptions below are from the designers.

Piecework by Lindsey Adelman
Hand-stitched in natural fabrics by a small circle of women, Piecework becomes a vulnerable, quiet skeleton of the American flag.

Picket Fence by Brad Ascalon
Historically, the white picket fence has been seen as a symbol of the ideal middle class suburban life in America. I wanted to use this ubiquitous American object as a commentary on a dream which has become nearly impossible for most Americans to realize. Within the boundaries of a society largely living above its own means, an unregulated banking system that plays by its own rules, and a government that idly stands by as millions of homes are being foreclosed upon, there lies an absolute truth which is that the direction we’re moving as a society has become unsustainable and toxic. The distance between the upper and middle class has increased exponentially, and within a limited timeframe, the dream for too many has shifted from living a comfortable and picturesque suburban life to wondering if today’s the day the electricity will shut off. This is the new promise of the American dream.

(photo by me)

American Weigh by Joe Doucet
This project began from exploring the idea of allowing one to feel what it is like to be an American. Rather than take a metaphorical approach, Doucet responded with literal wit. The average American weighs 36 Lbs. more than the global mean. American Weigh provides a chance to experience what carrying this added weight feels like in the ubiquitous form of a brief case.

“Christian Popsicle” by Sebastian Errazuriz
Frozen Holy wine transformed into the blood of Christ. Frozen red wine popsicles are distributed as cocktail refreshments to the art gallery attendants inviting them to drink the “Kool-Aid”. The artist claims he previously carried the frozen wine popsicles to church concealed inside a cooler where they where inadvertently blessed by the priest while turning wine into the blood of Christ during the Eucharist. The holy blood popsicles and their uniquely designed cross stick are a comment of the artist on the close relationship between extreme religious fanaticism and violent historic religious blood baths.

“Match made in Heaven” by Sebastian Errazuriz
A Ku Klux Klan white supremacist Christian nut job marries an angry Muslim fundamental fanatic extremist. Like most marriages they have the occasional fights but where really made for each other.

The concept behind “Christian Popsicle” and “Match made in Heaven”.

In the past years America has appeared to suffer a historical regression becoming more politically and religiously extremist than previous decades.

The current religious fanatic groups although deemed potentially violent, are dismissed due to the current focus on religious fundamentals from the Middle East. While fighting the War on Terror, we forget that only a few decades ago, groups like the Ku Klux Klan, where a functioning, dominant political force in American society.

The Klan much like other extremists identified themselves as a Christian organization, carrying out ‘God’s work’ branding the Flaming Cross as their symbol during their reign of terror. Today the Klan is long gone; nevertheless extreme religious and political groups continue to hold a dangerous and growing influence over American politics.

The current culture of fear, rage and religious fanaticism demands that today’s politicians drink the Kool-Aid, publicly profess their faith in God and promise to enforce laws that defend the ideology of the Bible and the Christian Faith over individual liberties.

Mount Lebanon Chair by Paul Loebach
Crafted from white paper, the Mount Lebanon Chair is an homage to the design ingenuity of the American Shaker community – famous for their low cost, high quality furniture production from the mid-to-late 1800’s. In this paper model an antique shaker chair from the New York state Mount Lebanon community has gone through a ‘material translation’ from wood to paper, as it was carefully measured and recreated in 1:1 scale.

A symbol of the highly intelligent mass-manufacturing of its time, this reproduction functions as a display of Paul Loebach’s work process, in which the creation of paper models is a common means to explore new design ideas. The ‘placeholder’ nature of the paper material serves to offset the notion of the designer as a fabricator, favoring an approach focused on the free examination of concept and form.

Cells by Frederick McSwain
One day after school, I was taken to the county jail. Escorted in, faded institutional colors and grimy furnishings painted the picture of another time. I sat down on a plastic dairy crate while fishing through my pockets for loose change. Shit out of luck, the fiery glow of a nearby vending machine taunted me as a feeling of anxiety began to creep in. Waiting impatiently, monotone hums from the fluorescent lighting composed a minimalist soundtrack, rapid heartbeats kept the time. My mother, barely visible through the glass window of a partitioned wall, was busy signing documents in the booking room next door. After what seemed like hours, she finally concluded her business and signaled over with the universal hand gesture for “Let’s go”. As we took our twenty paces to the car parked outside, she handed me a freshly snapped Polaroid. Still unclear, the image developed over the course of our drive home (a matter of minutes). Without revealing too much at once, the shadows slowly burned in, then the colors and highlights emerged, until eventually, a vivid portrait of a shirtless man came to life. It’s been with me ever since.

While the word “Cells” commonly refers to the smallest unit of living matter, it’s also synonymous with subjects ranging from statistical spreadsheets
to terrorist organizations. In language, as in life, environmental factors play a vital role in shaping one’s self-identity and perception of the world. From the moment of birth, each of us is exposed to a continuous stream of information. Collectively, these people, places, and things guide not only our emotions but also our practical decision-making. Meticulously organized, the human brain has the incredible ability to decipher and store these real-world snapshots for retrieval at a later time. At the end of the day, we’re all simply the sum of our parts.

I grew up in America.

MTA Chair by Marc Thorpe
The MTA chair celebrates the loss of NYC’s ubiquitous subway bench. The bench symbolizes the strict utilitarian performance of an object for people. Apart of the New York City’s physical and psychological landscape, it remains in our subconscious as a tool of rest, interaction and personal expression. The chair is not designed, the chair is a query. Its existence questions the role of design today as industry in relation to the public realm as well as to design’s relationship to high art.

Glass Pack by David Weeks
The Glass Pack is the translucent vestige of an American icon, the six pack. It’s a portable glass lantern with an unmistakable lineage. An opportunity to bring the spirits to a picnic, only in a different form.

Tote Series by Alissia Melka-Teichroew [not pictured]
It goes without saying that a product must be functional, but beauty and proportion are essential too. The Love It or Leave It tote is a meditation on the nature of consumption and a reminder that beauty serves a purpose just as much as portability or containment do. The object also asks why function tends to have greater value than aesthetics on the United States market: for instance, in the auto industry, cup-holders—a functional component of the design—increase the value of an American car while, in Italy, concealing a door handle is a more important—visual—consideration. This means that the more explicit American manufacturers make function in the design of a product, the more likely it is to sell well domestically.

In considering this difference in values, I have created a functional object, but also an object of desire. The Love It or Leave It tote is a high-functioning bag that consists of a single massive pocket with a handle that can be held in two ways: over the shoulder or in one hand. In the row of four bags that will be on display, each is based on a single paradigmatic form and features more pockets, zippers and handles than the one before it, until functionality becomes over-functional, rendering the bag useless or even absurd.

I’m not a tourist I live here by Joseé Lepage [not pictured]
I was born and raised in Montreal Canada. Like many French-Canadian families. we would spend our summer vacations down in Maine. I remember noticing that the local Mainers had an outfit that made them recognizably American – a t-shirt, often with a logo or a message, a baseball cap, a tote bag etc etc.

It was obvious to me then that adopting this American costume was a way for me to look and feel like a local. Later as an adult when I moved to NY and was asked where I was from, my response was I’m Canadian but I’m not a tourist I live here.

Now when I think about it, isn’t that what everybody wants when they come here? Wherever you’re from, you want to feel like you belong. The tee-shirt, the baseball cap, the tote bag all speaks a message, and mine is: I’m not a tourist I live here.

Professional photos by Miller Taylor.

Jaime Derringer, Founder + Executive Editor of Design Milk, is a Jersey girl living in SoCal. She dreams about funky, artistic jewelry + having enough free time to enjoy some of her favorite things—running, reading, making music, and drawing.