Q&A WITH ARTIST MARK MOSKOVITZ

During the International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Javitz Center in Manhattan I had the pleasure of speaking with artist and designer Mark Moskovitz. A graduate of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, one of  the countries top graduate programs, Mark received the Emerging Artist Award from Daimler in 2005, with his work “Writer’s Cabin” displayed in the companies headquarters in Berlin. Today his most notable piece, “Facecord,” is turning heads, having been featured in the New York Times and other notable publications. I spoke with Mark about Facecord, gaining inspiration from a 15th century painting and the allure of the urban lumberjack.

 

“Facecord” might be considered the piece of furniture/work of art that has put you on the map in the design world, is this fair and why do you think it has it captured so many people’s attention?

Facecord has certainly had the greatest reception for my studio thus far. I think it works on a few levels. On the one-hand, there’s the element of surprise when you approach it and it’s closed. Everyone wonders why I’m presenting a pile of logs as furniture. When they discover it’s a chest of drawers, jaws literally drop which is of course great fun for me as the designer/maker. I also think Facecord works purely formally. I thought of the piece about a decade ago when I lived in Northern Vermont on a tree farm and cut and stacked my own firewood. I always thought the log ends looked so haphazardly beautiful in a tight stack and was equally drawn to the lore that a good stack is tight enough to keep a chipmunk from running through. I suppose I also got lucky that I released it during (tail end?) the era of the urban lumberjack. While the trend is ironic, I’ve always been drawn to hand-work of any sort and clearly understand why it resonates with so many, even if it’s manifestation leans superficial.

You’re showing your work at the highly-respected IFCC show this week, what did it take to get here and how’s it going?

I hadn’t showed at the ICFF for about 8 years, when I was a student. It’s been on my radar, but I’ve been focused on studio furniture and public art/design for some time, so I’ve only recently begun a push into this more mass-produced furniture realm. I eased in with an off-site event, showing Facecord last year at The Future Perfect. This year I was asked by my friend Joe Ribic of Objeti if I wanted to share a booth and I was all in. We’re fans of each others work and it made sense on a number of levels. Because it was a recent development, there were many weeks of little sleep but the response has been very positive and definitely worth the effort. Look for more things out of the MoskovitzRibic partnership next year .

Tell me about your recent table project that you based on a 15th century painting?

My new collection consisting of a table/desk, coffee table, chair, and bench was inspired by a painting from the 15th Century by Dieric Bouts called Feast in the House of Simon. It’s a beautiful little painting lacking consistent perspective that shows Jesus having his feet cleaned by a woman’s hair. I first saw it while on a residency in Berlin in 2005 and it always stuck with me. As a designer, I was especially taken with the legs on the table which appeared very modern to me in their clean, simplicity. They evoked a truss style table but in a way I haven’t ever seen done. Using GoogleArtProjects, I was able to virtually stroll back through the museum (Gemaldegallerie) where I first saw the piece and study the legs anew. Both the desk/table and coffee table were fairly easy to extrapolate upon from the painting, while the seating required a bit more interpretation. It was a nice transition piece for me to do the sort of conceptual studio based work that interests me, while putting a toe in more universal work ready to be produced in larger runs.

To be successful on a commercial level is having your work selected by the industry heavyweights like Knoll or Vitra a necessary step?

Being selected by the major manufacturers would be a bit like winning the lottery. While most designers here would love to collect a royalty check and be freed up to do more designing, it’s a bit of a pipe dream; one we’ll all keep having. In the meantime, thankfully it’s never been easier to get your work out there to the world. A lot of young companies making work I’m interested in seem equally drawn to the entrepreneurial side of things; some of them are as apt to get attention from the big players as growing companies as they are for the designs themselves.

What are the challenges of being based in the mid-west and have you noticed a growth in the appreciation for good design?

The challenges of being in the Midwest are primarily about community. While there’s a strong pool of designers and good things happening in the design world here in Cleveland, it’s not quite as easy to find partners and clients who are on the same page and have the same sensibility. When your studio/home is in a major market like NY, you are constantly externally inspired as you cross paths with someone or something interesting nearly everyday, if not right on your stoop. The jockeying and talent of your peers keeps you on your toes as well. In the sleepier states, it’s mostly internal, pockets of people doing their thing mostly alone and from their head. I think the pros outweigh the cons. We draw from stuff like crumbling industry/infrastructure, access to nature, and the suburban milieux; an oddball mix. The solitude allows us to not be as influenced by trends. Take for example all of the brass, marble, and walnut on display the last two years during design week. Beautiful materials and application in many cases but sometimes it’s nice to keep the zeitgeist at bay.

And finally, for someone trying to break into furniture design, what advice would you give?

Most of the usual cliches are applicable. Namely that talent is aplenty but the hard work makes the difference. Don’t be envious of others attention, just of their good work. Attention for work you don’t care for shouldn’t phase you (a version of just worry about yourself). And lastly, just know that while there may seem like a lot of external factors and things to blame for things not going how you hope, the good work will get out there. It’s not about the hype, it’s about the work.

You can view more examples of Mark’s work on his website, fiftytwothousand.

 

Category: Art, Home.

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