Cultured Magazine

Summer 2013

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TAKE A SEAT Thirty years after Fernando and Humberto Campana established their namesake studio, the brothers are being celebrated with their first gallery show in the U.S. Aric Chen catches up with the brothers in Brazil. about Fernando and Humberto Campana's first solo gallery show in the United States is its name: "Concepts." Such dry earnestness might seem out of place, coming from a pair of celebrated Brazilian designers whose creative output includes three decades of tangled rope chairs, scraps of randomly tacked-together wood and furniture encrusted in stuffed animals. But make no mistake. When it comes to clarity of intention, boldness of proposition and virtuosic execution, there's nothing frivolous about the Campanas' work. For "Concepts," which runs at New York's Friedman Benda gallery through July 3, the São Paulo-based brothers are introducing more than 20 new pieces ranging from a table and shelves wrapped in a patchwork of cowhide sewn into big amorphous splatters, to a buffet fronted with steel strips bent into angular rosettes. With the accompanying Racket chair, remnants of caned Thonet chair backs have been stitched within a nylon weave, stretched across a freeform frame of highly polished brass. "It's a fusion of materials, a clash of noble and natural materials, that we always do in our work," says Fernando of the collection as a whole. "This has been characteristic of our work from the beginning, which also aims to value craft processes alongside industrial ones." Indeed, throughout the Campanas' career, the artisanal and the machined have often collided at the intersection where high and low meet Brazilianness. For starters, whether with the fabric-remnant swirls of their earlier Sushi furniture—or the semi-haphazard cowhide of the Boca table and shelves shown in "Concepts"—there has always been a method to the Campanas' madness. In making such pieces, the designers and their craftsmen ne- gotiate a set of guidelines set by the former but necessarily interpreted by the latter, placing their collaboration not in the design process—as design in the modern and industrial sense has often required—but in the object itself. At the same time, the brothers have never flinched at making something exquisitely rarefied of, say, an off-theshelf plastic lawn chair encased in hand-woven wicker. For both the Campanas and their observers, this melding of sensibilities and hierarchies is rooted in Brazil, where industrialization has often seemed perpetually incomplete and a perplexingly coherent identity, born of that country's comingling of natural and human influences, has given the brothers plenty of fodder to work with. Their "Concepts" show, for example, also includes sublime glass screens punctured by large Brazilian amethysts as well as a cabinet covered in Pirarucu skin, taken from a large Amazonian fish of the same name ("an important food and economic resource for the local economy, raised in a fishery managed in a sustainable way by NGOs," Fernando is quick to add). Nowadays it's tempting to see the Campanas' work as being more Art Deco than Arte Povera, with their prices having caught up to the high level of their craftsmanship. However, that's not the point. "This exhibition is an evolution of our previous work," says Humberto. "Sometimes we see a possibility to improve something from other pieces we've produced; we then work on new pieces with a very accurate perception of details." To be sure, the Campanas have never been about price points as much as the reevaluation of objects and the processes, hierarchies and other values embedded within them. And that's a concept worth thinking about. Desconfortáveis chair, 1989; Cone chair, 1997; Vermelha chair, 1998; Taquaral chair, 2000; Anemona Transparente chair, 2001; Sushi IV chair, 2002; Banquete chair, 2002; Sushi III chair, 2002; Favela chair, 2003; Corallo chair, 2004; Café chair, 2006 104 CULTURED PHOTOS BY © LUIS CALAZANS, ANDREAS HEININGER, EDRA, ANDRÉS OTERO. The first thing that stands out

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