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James Welling’s Tibetan wool and silk creation, “New Abstraction #1A” (2009), 108 x 72 inches (image via BravinLee.com)

The owners of BravinLee aren’t satisfied with simply selling art to hang on the walls. In a new initiative, they’re expanding their inventory to include art to put underneath the coffee table.

Organized by John Lee in association with Meredith Rosenberg, the Chelsea gallery began recruiting their artists to design hand-knotted silk and wool rugs manufactured in Nepal. In conjunction with GoodWeave (which certifies the rugs were not knotted by the tender hands of child slaves), the rugs draw upon the designs of BravinLee staples, including Thomas Nozkowski, Valerie Hegarty, Jonathan Lasker and James Welling.

Jonathan Lasker, “Untitled” (2011) Tibetan wool and silk 45 x 60 inches (image via BravinLee.com) (click to enlarge)

The project cleverly integrates art and practical design, lending some semblance of function to form in one creative endeavor. The genesis of these rugs formed during Rosenberg’s graduate studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Under the tutelage of her thesis adviser, Lee, they worked on new marketing techniques for contemporary art. The result was a transformation of contemporary artists’ works into accessible commodities.

The crux of this line owes much to Walter Gropius’s effort to marry fine art into daily life during the Bauhaus movement. Whereas the German design school explicitly created products through a fine arts lens, in BravinLee’s project there seems to be little transition in terms of the picture plane from painting to carpet. These exist as rugs and not as paintings from a purely commercial standpoint rather than a conceptual one.

The rugs speak largely to a current trend in interior design: bold, abstract and graphic accent pieces. James Welling’s energetic black and white composition “New Abstraction #1A” or Jonathan Lasker’s untitled blurred red helices set against a blue and back foreground are a decent compromise between the aesthetic of contemporary art and the aesthetic of contemporary decoration.

It’s an unfortunate proposition that art today is valued, at times, for how nice it looks above the couch in a millionaire’s penthouse. So how does this impact the reading of these rugs? Are they just more of an illustration of how consumer-driven the art market is, how the boundaries of what is an art product is ever-expanding or are they a suitable substitute for dilettantes wishing to decorate their pens with “high art”?

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Alexander Cavaluzzo

Alexander Cavaluzzo is a Pop Poet, Cultural Critic and Sartorial Scholar. He received his BS in Art History from FIT and his MA in Arts Politics at NYU. His interests focus on the intersection of fashion,...

2 replies on “Art You Can Wipe Your Feet On”

  1. I just wanted to say that we are appreciative of
    press and realize that not every bit of it will be complimentary. I have to
    take issue with the writer’s assertion that the buyers of these rugs would be–
    or are dilettantes. To the contrary, the buyers actually are some of the most
    sensitive and knowledgeable people you would ever wish to meet in the art
    world. Also– and this might be a little nit picky– but no polite person would
    wipe their feet on these rugs– at least not on purpose. I don’t know if the
    writer actually ever saw them in the flesh but they are not door mats and actually
    operate in some ways, to decommodify art by making it into consumer item rather
    than an investment.  The rugs may hold
    their value and even increase in value over the years—but I assure you that the
    buyers, the artists and the gallery, do not think about that very much.  We just wanted to make something special,
    beautiful and interesting and I hope we have! 
    Thank you for paying attention to the rugs—we have more in production.

     

    Best,

     

    John Post Lee

    BravinLee programs

    1. John,

      I completely respect your position on your project, but I stand by my judgment on the rugs. Meaning no disrespect, I would hope you can understand where I’m coming from not just in regards to the rugs, but consumerist trends in the art world today.

      With that said, I’m sorry I didn’t go into more detail about the aesthetic qualities of the rugs, which are quite striking and beautiful. But, as you said, not every bit if press is going to be 100% complimentary.

      I do thank you for sharing your views, as to give our readers two sides of the argument.

      -Alexander.

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