One incredibly balmy evening earlier this week, I dropped by R Gallery‘s opening of “Hugo França: The Story of the Tree.” It was a truly marvelous, don’t-miss-it show. The Brazilian designer carves stunningly elemental–and incredibly large-scale–furnishings from discarded Amazonian Indian canoes and fallen Pequi trees, some dating to 1,000 years old. Among the beautifully sculpted pieces on display were low-slung coffee tables, languorous chaises, and enormous room dividers.
The installation includes an insightful video that sheds light on França’s creative process, which is equal parts brute force (chain saws, chisels) and pure imagination (he has an otherworldly, almost spiritual communion with the trees and an ability to “see”–and then expose–their inner form). The utterly simple lines belie the complexity of the laborious handcraftsmanship that goes into making them.
Sadly–and unfairly–Brazil still gets a bad rap when it comes to earth-consciousness; deforestation and an active timber black market have marred the country’s reputation. The work of many contemporary Brazilian furniture designers goes a long way to correcting that. The ones I’ve met have been universally respectful of Mother Earth, embracing sustainable practices long before they came into vogue and celebrating nature’s inherent beauty with exquisitely poetic work. França included.
The show is up through June 14. If you can’t afford one of the pieces (which run into the tens of thousands!), order a copy of the catalog. Photographed by Tuca Reines, it’s a work of art in itself. –Jen Renzi