Emma Scully Gallery is proud to present ‘A Room on East 79th Street,’ the debut solo exhibition from London-based artist and designer EJR Barnes premiering on Thursday, October 12, 2023.
To the tune of quiet refinement, Barnes has swiftly become known for romantic yet pragmatic works that exist in the gray area between decorative art and industrial design. Astutely self-aware, his autodidactic practice functions as a sieve that nimbly distills qualities from historical styles without the blinkers of a formal training. Practical, poetic, and peppered with a quiet surrealism, his output is tied only to the idea of untangling the pretense of design while winking at its seriousness.
A place more than a showcase, ‘A Room on East 79th Street’ has a sense of pre-nostalgia with a spatial concept akin to something you might dream up while reading magic realism. Echoing the emotional impact of interior arrangement, Barnes’ presents new works staged within the aesthetic rather than placed upon pedestals to be studied and admired. It’s the approach of a poet, or in this case, an art school dropout. “My work normally ranges from large furniture pieces to mid size, like lighting. For this show, however, I’ve looked beyond this to even smaller items like glassware and flatware, as well as textiles,” says Barnes. “I want the show to have an immersive approach, where a feeling can be imbued throughout every aspect of an interior.”
Constructed from folded stainless steel, veneer, and cast glass (an entirely new method for Barnes, made possible by the production support of Emma Scully Gallery), the works featured in this exhibition mimic moments from the past while gracefully stretching toward the future in an atypical fashion. Outside of time and elegantly non-conformist, Barnes explores the allure of aesthetic sophistication through the practical process of fabrication and operational ease. Choosing materials that lie just outside of the contemporary vernacular, he finds ways to elevate the otherwise ordinary through the transformative act of sharp-witted process.
‘I have no interest in throwing expensive materials at something for the sake of it’ Says Barnes; ‘I care much more about lifting more normal materials into the same realm... For example, folding steel is a fairly simple operation – and the material isn’t especially costly compared to more luxurious metals – but with the right drawings and attention to polishing, it can be extremely beautiful, and retain a subtle charm.”
While hard-pressed to pin down direct influences, there is a palpable connection to Italian and Japanese postmodernism, art deco, Biedermeier, and Viennese Secessionism that gently coexists alongside Barnes’ own tactile point of view. As he puts it, “there isn’t really one point of inspiration, rather a continually revolving string of materials, forms, imagery that gets logged in my head and finds its way out when I am drawing.”
“Elliot’s practice reads more like a piece of music rather than a catalog of objects,” says gallerist Emma Scully. “There’s a certain quality of consciousness and context – how he uses humor and the juxtaposition of material and form – that offers something new, an aesthetic language of his own design.”
‘A Room on East 79th Street’ will be unveiled on October 12, 2023 and will remain on view through December 15, 2023.