Jonathan Nesci, THE NEW, 2010

Last weekend I checked out Volume Gallery‘s debut presentation, an exhibition of limited edition furniture pieces by designer Jonathan Nesci titled THE NEW. The show was held for three days only at Andrew Rafacz Gallery. Nesci, whose design firm Hale is based in Chicago and Scottsburg, Indiana,  finds inspiration in the idiosyncratic details of urban infrastructure: the angle of street curbs, the unobtrusive design and placement of electrical meters, the base of a street light. The limited edition pieces comprising THE NEW also reference minimalist sculpture: a day bed and side chair are named after Sol Lewitt,  a wall-mounted aluminum plate bookcase that self-consciously evokes a Donald Judd sculpture is called the Reference Shelf.

Nesci favors industrial materials like metal and concrete, coated in a matte white finish that draws in surrounding light. My favorite piece was the Standard Table: a concrete disc that appeared to float within a circular bed of powder-coated aluminum and steel. In the picture above, its pale grey tabletop appears chalky white — an example of the way that Nesci’s pieces suck up light and transform hard-edged materials into objects that appear light-weight and almost ethereal. I also loved the smart, streamlined Seattle Planter, a combination planter/umbrella stand, which ingeniously re-uses dripping rainwater to nourish the plants in its base (the piece was designed with rain-soaked regions in mind, natch).

Jonathan Nesci, Standard Table. Powder-coated spun aluminum, concrete, steel.

Jonathan Nesci. Seattle Planter. Wax-polished aluminum plate.

Appropriately, Sam Vinz and Claire Warner, the co-founders of Volume Gallery, chose a white cube-like gallery space to showcase Nesci’s editions. Future iterations of Volume will likely look very different. I asked Vinz and Warner if they could answer a few questions about their new endeavor, and they kindly agreed. Check out Volume’s website for information on the next show, an exhibition of new editions by Felicia Ferrone that will take place sometime next Fall.

CI: Tell me a little bit about both of your backgrounds. You worked at Wright Auctions for a time?

Claire Warner: I graduated with a BA in Art History from Denison University, with an emphasis in Decorative Arts, spent several years at Wright Auction in Chicago as a specialist and appraiser in 20th century and contemporary design. While at Wright, I had the opportunity to help organize exhibitions by contemporary designers such as Arik Levy and Martino Gamper. Also spent time working at Luminaire, Chicago.

Sam Vinz: I graduated with a BA in Art History from UW-Madison with an emphasis in 20th century European architecture. In 2008 I completed my MA in Art Business from Sotheby’s Institute in London, and I wrote my dissertation on an analysis of the contemporary design market. I have worked at Phillips de Pury, Carpenter’s Workshop Gallery, Wright Auction, and Chase Art Companies.

Claire Warner and Sam Vinz of Volume Gallery

CI: Why did you want to start Volume Gallery?

CW: We saw a void in the market for contemporary American design and the lack of support for emerging contemporary designers.

SV: Exactly, by allowing these designers to push the boundaries of what is often thought of ‘design’ they are able to be more creative with their output – in ways beyond that of the standard industrial/commercial design constructs that exist in the US today.

CI: Volume Gallery is not just about exhibiting design — it’s about partnering with designers to create limited editions specifically for Volume. Can you explain what that process entails?

CW: We work with the designer to provide the best platform for their design- to utilize our experience in the design market to amplify their voice as a designer.

SV: It involves various things – at the end of the day, we want these pieces in collectors homes – but at the same time we want the pieces to be approachable to younger/new collectors.  This means, from a production standpoint, coming up with various levels of accessibility with the pieces that we produce.  To accomplish these levels involves going through various designs with the designer and picking pieces that will do two things – most importantly, tell a story and present a collection, secondly – fulfill these different levels of accessibility.

CI: Volume Gallery isn’t based in a single space – as you’ve put it on your website, it’s event-based, and the location changes with every project. Can you tell us why you decided to follow this type of fluid and roving format as opposed to the traditional showroom style of exhibiting design objects?

CW: Each space needs to be conducive to the designer/ or designs. Not every piece will work in a white box gallery setting. By providing a different space for each show- we hope to place the piece in their appropriate context. We also feel creating more of an event adds to the interest- pulling different groups from different walks of life and introducing them to design.

SV: Also, it is a continuation of the idea of telling a story.  For the Nesci show, it made sense for his pieces to be shown in a white-box setting.  In the future we are planning on keeping it fresh by challenging the ideas of how design is seen.

Jonathan Nesci, Sol Bed. powder-coated aluminum bar and perforated steel sheet, Spinneybeck leather.

Jonathan Nesci, Reference Shelf. Wax polished aluminum plate.

CI: Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects with designers, and what form those projects and events will take?

CW: The next event will be in the fall with designer Felicia Ferrone. We start working with the designer this week- so the space and context of the event has yet to be determined.

Felicia Ferrone, Revolution Wine/Water and Liqueur Glasses.

Claudine Isé

Claudine Isé has worked in the field of contemporary art as a writer and curator for the past decade, and currently serves as the Editor of the Art21 Blog. Claudine regularly writes for and Chicago magazine, and has also worked as an art critic for the Los Angeles Times. Before moving to Chicago in 2008, she worked at the Wexner Center in Columbus, OH as associate curator of exhibitions, and at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles as assistant curator of contemporary art, where she curated a number of Hammer Projects. She has Ph.D. in Film, Literature and Culture from the University of Southern California.