(DETROIT, MI — SEPTEMBER 17, 2020) — Reyes | Finn is pleased to present Shuddering, an exhibition of new work by Detroit-based artist and furniture designer, Chris Schanck, and the first major solo presentation of Schanck’s work in Detroit, where the designer moved in 2010.
Known for blending traditional classifications of art, design and craft, Schanck mines various fictional, fabled, and known histories, compressing time to create objects that are both alien and familiar. With Shuddering, Schanck will debut eleven new functional sculptures—including stools, chandeliers, lamps, mirrors, cabinets and candlestick holders—that investigate relationships between natural and constructed environments. A new aesthetic language emerges from his source material, which melds Brutalism and Art Deco architecture, fantasy and science fiction narratives, early human dwellings, and the designer’s interpreted neighborhood structures and visual culture.
The exhibition is rooted in Detroit’s mercurial industrial landscape, and the seasonal aesthetics of economic growth, stagnation, decline and recovery. Inspired by the ad hoc design solutions found throughout the artist’s neighborhood, Schanck’s sculptures are material investigations into contradictions of growth and decay, resourcefulness and opulence, and protection and dystopian threat. The exhibition’s title embodies such confluence, using a double entendre of shudder/shutter-ing to evoke images of protection and preservation; use or abandonment; light and the elements; and the body’s impulse to tremble in response to a multitude of encounters. Schanck mollifies this dystopian anxiety by revisiting his childhood fascination with the cosmos, using science-fiction as a tool to explore the primal nature of man. Drawn to the American astronomer Carl Sagan’s concept that mankind longs to return to the cosmos because “we’re made of star stuff”—meaning our bodies are made up atoms that were created in previous generations of stars—Schanck playfully interrogates our desire for protection and warmth, and fear of their absence.
Schanck investigates human habitation of space, surveying imagined cave dwellings and the designer’s Detroit-Hamtramck neighborhood, taking inspiration from found objects such as heaps of discarded furniture, personal belongings and organic materials. For Schanck, the ephemeral, timeworn objects graft onto each other to become complex, re-animated compositions which act as optimistic symbols of transition. With Signal Light, the designer creates a permanent manifestation of these material compositions. The forms metamorphosize in Schanck’s studio, reemerging as opulent lamps through alchemical material transformations. A similar monument to the provisional design solutions found within Schanck’s daily habitat, Veiled Mirror is a patchwork of materials layered over time that has grafted together to form a fragile bond. Inspired by the ubitupus blue tarp that is used as a temporary patch to protect a home from the elements, Schanck transforms the hardworking material into a lustrous, decadent fabric that frames mirrored glass, as if it were a pool of water that had formed within the tarp’s valleys.“The landscape of the city and my neighborhood goes through an apocalyptic to dystopian cycle as the seasons change,” says Schanck. “Shell and skeletal structures come alive with new green growth every spring. What looks chaotic and destructive is a dormant infrastructure for growth.”
While working on his masters degree at Cranbrook, Schanck experimented with unusual fabrication methods, developing his now signature bespoke technique, which he calls “Alufoil.” Comprising a stratigraphic application of candy wrapper foil, resin, and an improvised armature of urban debris and industrial foam, Schanck’s process transforms and elevates inexpensive materials into otherworldly luxury objects that appear as though they’ve been chiseled from a hunk of alien metal, or excavated from a lost city in a sci-fi novel. With Shuddering, Schanck debuts a new process that involves the gradual stratification of resin laminate, built-up over time like an oil painting. This method is seen in Mum Chandelier, a coral-like chandelier created long-distance in collaboration with Schanck’s mother—a first for the designer. The exhibition also features a new process of tinting oriented strand board OSB, interrupted by Alufoil growths, erupting from the furniture like a foreign fungus.The result is a new set of visual codes that allow the viewer to imagine what might emerge in the future.