Lindsey Adelman has made a name for herself creating luxury chandeliers that delicately balance the organic and the refined. With her latest collection, however, the lighting designer is applying that aesthetic to an entirely new range of objects, as seen at the exhibition Show Me now on view at the auction house Wright's Manhattan gallery.
For Adelman, who founded her New York studio in 2006, Show Me was an opportunity to share more of the story behind her work, highlighting the visual tension in each piece. "I've really enjoyed being able to elaborate on the meaning behind my work and develop it further, really pushing an idea through the process of making," she says. With her first-ever music video, on view at the Wright exhibition, Adelman puts that tenuous balance on full display with a performance by Laura Young featuring choreography by Danielle Matinelli and an original track by Leo Madriz. It was the process of making the video, which was shot last summer, that informed the mirrors, candelabra and jewelry that Adelman created over the course of the following year.
One of a few different mirrors in the exhibition. "If you really just need to see yourself, you could probably buy something else," Adelman says. Photos by Lauren Coleman.
"I would say the overarching theme is really about letting oneself go, finding this place within oneself that's a balance between the analytical mind of gauging our actions and monitoring ourselves with letting the wildfire run free and not trying to control it," Adelman says. "A lot of the work has all those elements of the free part, the wild part, as well as boundaries and structure." In another first for the designer, the mirrors and candelabra are one-offs. "That is an entirely different way of thinking for me, as opposed to designing pieces that are meant to be ordered over and over," Adelman says.
"These pieces feel like much more indulgent, sculpturally-driven functional objects. It's about opulence and over-the-top-ness and pleasure. They also have function, but they're not practical, I wouldn't say, even though they are built for longevity."
The process of designing the objects in Show Me began with a series of sketches. (As with most of her projects, the designer first created a binder with dividers, which she then filled with sketches and notes as the ideas developed.) Drawing upon themes of growth and decay, control and chaos, Adelman represented motifs through physical manifestations of fungi, which sprout up in golden growths across the finished pieces. For the mirrors, Adelman approached a traditional frame-making company that had been in business for over 60 years, bringing them her binder and preliminary sketches to start a conversation. The relationship grew from there, as Adelman would bring back additional pencil drawing with dimensions, calling out specific sections or details of the design.
A sketch of one of the mirrors—the final version is below. Enter a caption (optional)
"Their process is the same as it's always been," Adelman says of the frame maker. "They have one room with all the men carving wood and another room with all the ladies doing gold leaf." Adelman created wax pieces of fungus that she would then hand-place onto wooden frames provided by the frame maker on-site. "Almost like a kid playing with blocks, like wooden toys, we would have a dummy frame cut out and I would place all the fungus myself," she says. The wax fungus worked as a looks-like model for Adelman to communicate on a one-to-one ratio particular details of the design; the frame makers would use those models to build positives out of wood. The positives were then cast in plaster and the final product was gold-leafed. Other chemical processes were used to make the mirrors appear aged. "It was really fun to learn about an entire process and then design for that process while guiding them through these shapes that they had never done before," Adelman says.
One of the fungus-covered candelabra in the exhibition
The Show Me series presented many new challenges for Adelman and her team as well. "There are so many objects in this collection that aren't part of what we do normally in our studio—pretty much every single one," Adelman says. "That's challenging because there are 29 people at the studio now and everybody has pretty full days already, so it's a challenge to introduce a lot of new work where you can't predict how much time it's going to take. You have never done it before, so all these weird surprises come up along the way."
Adelman considers this series a deeper foray into decorative art, straying away from the standard product-design mentality that she had been perfecting since graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1996. "These pieces don't feel like industrial design to me," she says. "These pieces feel like much more indulgent, sculpturally-driven functional objects. I don't know how to describe it. It's much more about opulence and over-the-top-ness and pleasure, in a way. Then they also have function, but they're not practical, I wouldn't say, even though they are built for longevity." In other words, these objects were a welcome opportunity for Adelman to stretch the boundaries of her practice. As she says of the music video that launched the entire collection, "There's nothing practical about it, which is something I had a real craving to do."
Show Me will be on display at Wright's Manhattan gallery, in the historic Parke-Bernet Building on Madison and 76th Street, until August 1.