The Still House Group
The bold primary colors of Ikea’s world-famous logo are visible from the corridor leading to the door marked “Still House” with simple lettering. After a few taps we were ushered in and met co-founder Isaac Brest, happily sitting at his desk in front of a magnet work by fellow Still House artist, Nick Darmstaedter.
Isaac Brest sits at his desk in front of a piece by Nick Darmstaedter
Divided into unsegregated studio spaces, the Still House boys are open to critique and casual walk-ins by other members of their gang. Each artist’s area branches off a main walkway, making formal invitations into one another’s studios unnecessary and doors a waste of space. Augustus Thompson however - the current artist is residence - has erected floor to ceiling curtains in response to this very open artistic process. Not used to working with so many other creatives, Thompson has modified his workspace to make a more private area to produce his next series: a group of sculptural wooden beams pieced together, that are smoothly taking him from 2D to 3D work. Walking into his spot we immediately feel the need to amend the screen and contain his homemade privacy.
Artists wander down the main hallway, which is scattered with pieces by current and past group members. Some members are checking in on the artists’ progress, others relax in slouchy couches near a window that looks across the murky water, directly towards the Statue of Liberty. Jack Greer’s cacti rest by the large window; each plant has been scarred with lovers’ initials, dates of birth and other small, nostalgic markings. Greer likes that the owner really has to be involved in the final piece; when sold or given to a friend, the piece needs to be watered and cared for in order for it to survive. When well looked after, the cactus might grow new spikes or a new arm – Greer’s enthusiasm, animated hand gestures and facial expressions leave you begging for a your own giant, green succulent.
Co-founder, Alex Perweiler stands in front of Protein
Further along our tour we find Dylan Lynch, and our last stop is Alex Perweiler (who founded the group with Brest in 2007). Lynch and Perweiler are both incredibly well spoken and talk about their artwork in a stimulatingly intellectual yet accessible manner. There is a constant dialogue between material and balance in Lynch’s work and as he took us around his space, he kept returning to the awkward, distorted legs of a new sculpture, which is a replica of a mass-produced Ikea table that has been crushed into an impossible new form. In Lynch’s studio we see older works as well as pieces he is still working on. An experiment using surfboard parts juts out of one of the walls, alongside his more recent imploded barrels that play on how our conceptions of strength are related to certain industrial materials. Each artist’s studio employs this same mentality: older works are placed among current projects. We take an interest in Perweiler’s diptych entitled Protein, which consists of two identical advertisements that depict a pristine knife and fork gently nestling into a rare steak. Perweiler shows us a photograph of the aluminum panels as they were installed in a recent show in Athens. The two paintings are hung on concrete columns either side of a large window looking onto the city and the artist uses this image to explain the significance of setting and installation.
They’re a community but they’re not a collective. Brest tells us that they like to show as a group abroad, but when exhibiting in the US, prefer not to be considered a team of artists. What an American gallery can do for them, they can do for themselves. They have an amazing space, a heap of young art enthusiasts interested in what they’re doing and impatiently anticipating their next move.
We leave the studio and are again faced with Ikea’s vibrant yellow and blue, the iconic symbol reminding us of the use of found, industrial objects that recurs throughout much of the artists’ work.
View from the studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn
APF Intern Clara