From the outset of his singular career, British designer Marc Newson has pursued parallel activities in limited and mass production of functional design objects. From the iconic Lockheed Lounge (1986) to the streamlined Extruded Tables and Voronoi Shelf (both 2006), carved from single blocks of Carrara marble, Newson approaches design as both an exploratory technical exercise and a process of conceptual, aesthetic, and physical refinement. Employing sculptural principles to address issues of efficiency, luxury, and use value, he has produced a broad array of highly crafted commodities—watches, footwear, luggage, furniture, transport—upholding the principle that engineering and aesthetics are inseparable.
Revisiting his roots as a jeweler and silversmith, in this solo exhibition at Gagosian New York, Newson explores increasingly rare decorative techniques at an unconventionally large, even unprecedented, scale. His cast glass chairs, made in the Czech Republic, are continuous symmetrical forms comprised of two hollow quarter-spheres. The boldly colored upper halves rest on clear bases, which absorb some of the reflected hues in their clouded interiors, an effect that subtly changes depending on the vantage point.
For the Murrina works (2017), Newson utilizes an intricate classical glass-making technique to create streamlined desks, tables, and consoles. Their sloping and beveled planes are unified beneath pulsing fields of repeated cell-like spots on vivid colored grounds, made by fusing glass rods together and then slicing them to reveal patterned cross-sections.
In another series of desks, chairs, and lounges, Newson has employed Chinese cloisonné, an enameling technique that dates back to the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Made by hand in Beijing, the cloisonné works blur the boundaries between sculpture, furniture, and ornament, like jewels expanded to the full scale of the body. Their patterns and motifs reveal Newson’s wide-ranging aesthetic influences: from his signature “orgone” pattern to more traditional Chinese floral motifs, such as large magnolias on a white ground, or cherry blossom branches set against opaque black enamel.
Finally, the exhibition includes a new series of aluminum surfboards, following the nickel version that Newson created for the American tow-in surfer Garrett McNamara and presented at Gagosian New York in 2007, as well as an Aikuchi sword made by the swordsmith Saburo Nobufusa Hokke, a Japanese Living National Treasure from the renowned Tōhoku region. By relocating these objects into the realm of fine art, Newson underscores their cultural significance, showing the value of technical precision to be both a functional and an aesthetic concern. ‘Marc Newson’ is on view until 20 February at Gagosian.