MAY 2011

Deborah Buck and Haresh Lalvani inteviewed by Natalie Fasano

Deborah Buck, owner and proprietor of Buck House Fine Art and Antiques Showroom on the Upper East Side recently debuted the House’s first ever solo show, XtraD, featuring stunning works of metal and mirrored designs by Haresh Lalvani. Buck House is indeed a “House,” in the best sense of the word. It is a successful experiment in the achievement of high volume content without clutter by gently bending the rules. Buck sources her pieces personally, traveling extensively to root out interesting objects spanning centuries of art and design.

With a cultivated eye, born from her years as a visual artist “locked in a studio” Buck expends her considerable energies and talents admirably. Few could mount Lalvani’s massive, mind-bending metal and mirrored designs onto an already highly vocal wall-space with success. Of her curatorial aesthetic Buck explains: “I never sell the same thing twice.” Each piece must possess integrity of design. It must be balanced and well thought out. The pieces need to visually teach me something and show me something that I haven’t seen before. I tend to be attracted to “ bridge “ pieces that are from one era moving into another or from one style moving into another. No surprise, I suppose, for someone who loves putting things together, whether its colors, forms, food, people or objects on a tabletop. The mix is always more interesting to me than the singular object.” 

Haresh Lalvani is one of those lucky individuals born with creative ambidexterity. His works temper the complex and traditionally conflicting realms of both Science and Nature into forms and figures of simple coherence. Featuring works from Lalvani’s Algroythms and XURF series feature pieces of complex multidimensional construction.  Surfaces are arranged to play off of one another, shaping the static, sculptural form but also that of the external, active environments they are placed in.  Mirrored pieces come to life in Buck House, reflecting the bright pink and cream hues of the walls opposite, the light blues and yellows of the sky through the window, the refracted light from surrounding fragments—color absent.  Lalvani’s pieces intuit the sculptor's understanding of complex scientific processes and genetic coding to tease out his chosen materials' most natural, fluid forms. To Lalvani, Art and Science are not industries at odds; it is the affliction of adulthood that places them in conflict.

“Children are both artists and scientists,” he explains. “As we grow up, the specialization of knowledge, and education, produces a schism. Art and science have a deeper connection in that they both seek the beautiful in different ways. In my work, there is no conscious effort to challenge or elicit a specific response, and it is gratifying when viewers experience beauty in the work.”

It is difficult not to see beauty in Lalvani’s work; appreciation, as his pieces, is multidimensional. Both Buck and Lalvani graciously agreed to speak with The Curated Object to discuss the evolving worlds of art and design, and the exciting interplay Lalvani brings to them through the mathematical discipline.

CO: The XtraD exhibition is the first time your gallery hosted a solo design show. What was it about Haresh’s work that made you consider it as perfect for your space?

DB: I saw the work as groundbreaking visually and intellectually. I also knew that the scale of the work would be a real departure for Buck House. I thought that it would be advantageous for people to see this large-scale work in a more intimate setting, like Buck House, rather than a large  “ white cube “ space. The exhibition made sense to me in the spirit of collaboration in that Haresh is faculty at The Pratt Institute where I am a Trustee and his fabricator; Bruce Gitlin is also a Trustee. Haresh is also interesting to me because he is exploring the world of fine art, jewelry, decorative as well as functional objects and doing it as an architect and an academic. He’s way out of the box and that it something that I applaud heartily.

HL:  There is only one inspiration: nature.

CO: Deborah, did you approach the role of curator for the XtraD exhibition differently than you would on a day-to-day basis? And Haresh, were you surprised with the result?

DB: Absolutely. When curating on a day-to-day basis, I am usually trying to make the entire collection a democratic conversation, where the objects are in a harmonious mélange, not fighting one another for attention. With Haresh’s work, I was most interested in letting the sculpture stand out first and the decorative objects support it rather than vying for importance.

HL: It was remarkable how the pieces fitted within her living-room type setting. A common response was: “I can see this in my home”. My sense is her touch is unique and unlikely to be repeated. Who will place 2400 carnations by hand, one by one, as a setting for CALLISTO? Or place the orchid with AMUN?

CO: Deborah, what do you mean when you describe Buck House as both a design gallery and “lab?”  What are your particular interests that require experimentation—what do you hope to discover?

DB: The world of art and design, like lab science, is a wonderful world of experimentation. You never really know how objects, art, and other design elements will react until you place them all together. It's that type of effect that really drives Buck House to be different. I am constantly on the move looking for new ways of bringing design mediums together in hopes of creating a new atmosphere or reactions. I think Lalvani's work in the Buck House setting is a prime example of what the unknown really possesses. So far, the reactions have been extraordinary.

CO: Haresh’s work draws from geometric patterns found in the natural world, encoded in the DNA of living objects. Why does someone like myself, with no natural inclination to mathematics or formulas, respond to it?  Do those who “get” math, and those who don’t, experience his designs differently?

DB: Haresh's art has really taught me that geometry, math and formulas are a part of everyday life, sometimes they are more theoretical and sometimes more organic. What Extra D does is bridge those two realities. Once you connect with one of Haresh's sculptures, you begin to see just how infinite the merger of art and science really is. So, you don't have to be a mathematician to fall in love with the intricate patterns but if the patterns make sense to you mathematically they create yet another layer of meaning.

HL: For some, knowing takes away the mystery, for others it enlightens. The work is always exploring the line between the known and the unknown, both in the mathematics and its relation to how matter is shaped. It may appeal to both for this reason.

CO: Some of Haresh’s pieces are described as achieving their final form “untouched by human hands;” i.e. naturally, according to the inclinations of an object’s natural center of gravity. This is an incredible concept but, taken too far, this process could lead to a new movement—not unlike the trajectory from avant-garde to kitsch. Do you think that advances in technology pose a potential threat to contemporary design?

DB: That is where risk taking comes into play in the making of art. One cannot be afraid to challenge what has come before in order to make new paradigms. It is hard enough to make new art forms without trying to second guess where they may take the rest of the aesthetic world. The hope is to introduce something that leaves the world a different and hopefully better place.

HL: Our challenge is to embrace new technologies in an imaginative way to advance art, design and architecture. The artistic challenge is to use high-tech means to produce one-of-a-kind pieces that cannot be reproduced, even by the artist. I began experimenting with this in the 1980’s. “Untouched by human hands” is directed towards tapping the intelligence in materials and processes so these can shape our artifacts, leading towards objects that will eventually begin to shape themselves.

CO: If technology is truly here to stay, how can a collector continue to tell the “real” from the “fake?” Deborah, one of the pieces on display is part of your private collection; what drew you to this piece, and why did you desire to own it; namely, what made it “real” for you?

DB: The ovoid form had always had great meaning to me. The idea of inception, birth, promise and beginnings are all exciting and positive notions for me. This piece floats from the ceiling and felt very liberated. It also is transparent and open while being made from steel, which is incongruent and therefore interesting. It changes from whatever angle one views it. I knew that it would continue to provoke my thoughts.

CO: You are not only a collector, but an artist, collector, dealer, author and chef.  Is Buck House, as it stands today, the product of all of these reference points?  How have your experiences shaped your curatorial eye?

DB: Buck House is most definitely the product of all of my endeavors but by no means the end product. It continues to change and grow as I do. What started as a small antiques shop has turned into a formidable business in which we sell antiques as well as art, jewelry, custom furniture, fabrics, books and wallpapers. We are in the business of selling ideas and design. Everything that I do, I do first as an artist; it is what informs my choices.

CO: You have also said that the decision to quit painting full-time was in large part due to your new role as mother; you would rather be with your son, than locked in the painting studio. Self-imposed isolation is a creative experience that not many have the opportunity—or inclination—to try. What did you take with you, from those self-contained hours in the studio to the outside world?

DB: Discipline. The ability to push through boredom to solve a visual problem or to find intellectual change and inspiration. I know myself quite well as a result of all of those years alone with the work. I also now know that I don’t have to stay in the studio for days on end in order to produce the work. All of my endeavors support the continuing progress of my fine art. I’m still painting but I no longer just stay staring at the walls when I’m stumped. I’m out running my empire and feeding my head in other ways. Now when I return to the studio, it is for shorter, more productive bursts.

CO: And Haresh, I imagine that your collector base is quite diverse—spread among the arts, sciences, and other academic fields. Have their equally diverse responses to your work shaped your aesthetic vision? What’s next?

HL: The work is being driven by its own trajectory, which explores origins. It is constantly challenging the limits of spatial, structural and material logics. The aesthetics comes from this search. We are looking forward to making our pieces on a larger scale, especially outdoors. We are making Xurf portraits, a by-product of some of our mirrored pieces, where optics re-configures the human face, reminiscent of what the cubists achieved.