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Art Or Design?: Welcome To The Improvisational Carpentry Of Nicolás Aracena Müller

Amid the pristine galleries in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, Nicolás Aracena Müller was busy in the half gallery, half design boutique Chamber. Sawing, hammering, and drilling away at slabs of rough-hewn wood, Aracena Müller was building a collection of furniture ad-lib. “Some people thought the gallery was under construction,” he quips. No plan guided the finished pieces, just intuition.

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Müller, who is based in Chile, calls the concept improvisational carpentry. He traveled to New York and wandered the city streets and dove into dumpsters searching for materials he could turn into pieces that are part sculpture, part theater, and part design. He believes that working with cast-off items reflects the city’s character. (The mottled woods certainly captures New York’s tougher side.)

“Working with found materials is about appreciating and recognizing history the wood,” he says. “Each piece of wood tells a story because is was previously part of another furnishing, a door, or even a building.”

The designer then jigsaws the wood together, testing how the slabs could be joined and how they might unite cohesively. The process of figuring out how to put everything together matters most to Müller. Some of the finished pieces are monumental in scale, like the bench composed of three beams, and others are intimate, like a three-leg table. What they all do is encourage interpretation through design and show the beauty in what was formerly abandoned.

“Everything is ambiguous and this is what I like about the collection,” Müller says.

And while the live-action portion of his show Atalaya has concluded, the imaginative end results are on view at Chamber until September 12.

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