Tayloe Piggott

Furniture designed by Chris Lehrecke will be displayed alongside jewelry created by his wife, Gabriella Kiss, starting Friday at Tayloe Piggott Gallery. The artists will attend a reception at the gallery from 6 to 8 that evening.

People who frequent contemporary art galleries generally know what to expect when they visit one: paintings, sculpture, works on and of paper, and perhaps some installation art or a video piece.

It’s less likely to find furniture exhibited as fine art, but that’s exactly what you’ll see in “Designing with Nature,” a new showroom in Tayloe Piggott Gallery’s Project Space. That space will act as a venue for provisional exhibitions and an ongoing showroom for furniture designer Chris Lehrecke’s nature-inspired work. Longtime gallery-represented jeweler Gabriella Kiss, who, incidentally, is married to Lehrecke, will feature her work alongside the furniture maker’s during the first week of the showroom’s operation.

“Designing with Nature” will open Friday, when a reception for the artists will be held from 5 to 8 p.m., and stay up until July 22. Kiss’ work will be shown until June 19.

“The answer is obvious when you see the furniture: It’s art,” said Maya Frodeman, the gallery’s director of marketing and public relations, when asked why it decided to diverge from the status quo and exhibit Lehrecke’s work. “It’s all completely original, handmade pieces.”

Indeed, both Lehrecke and Kiss bring a one-of-a-kind sensibility to their work.

From their home in upstate New York the artists draw from the natural world. For Lehrecke, a veteran designer represented by Ralph Pucci International in New York City, that means using several varieties of native wood that grow near the couple’s home. He hand-forms that raw material into minimal pieces that are spare and geometric while maintaining an organic depth and richness.

Kiss forages for interesting or overlooked items on junkets around the couple’s property, casting animal bones or small assemblages of sticks and twigs into radiant, delicate, almost animate pieces that, as stated by a press release, “personify [such things as] snakes, wasps, ants and bees, highlighting the subtle splendor of living creatures.”

“Gabriella is a very personal artist,” Frodeman said, describing how Kiss has a talent for finding inspiration in even the humblest natural phenomena.

Gallery owner Tayloe Piggott has known Kiss and Lehrecke for nearly 20 years and has represented Kiss for over a decade. Frodeman said Piggott’s decision to formally represent Lehrecke was a natural progression.

“Gabriella and Chris collaborate a lot,” Frodeman said. Kiss, for example, contributes subtle, “artful additions” to Lehrecke’s pieces.

The reception for Lehrecke’s and Kiss’ shows — both artists will be present — kicks off a busy summer season for the gallery. Later this month it will be installing an exhibition of paintings by renowned New York artist John Alexander, whose work, according to the gallery’s press release, “incites a profound message about the dissolution of both our political and natural environments.”

The summer will also see a selection of new paintings and works on paper from beloved landscapist Wolf Kahn.

In perusing the gallery’s summer offerings you may notice Lehrecke’s pieces integrated into other artists’ exhibitions.

“Since the gallery will be acting as a showroom for Chris after his exhibit, we will be marketing other exhibitions around his work,” Frodeman said. “We’re very excited.” 

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the time for the "Designing with Nature" opening. The opening is set to take place run from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday. — Ed.

Contact Gisele Olson via 732-7062 or entertainment@jhnewsandguide.com.

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