Fernando Mastrangelo is “In Good Company”

FM/S is a platform that helps creatives as autonomous entrepreneurs. The “In Good Company” exhibit debuts 14 designers who are unassumingly changing the image of American design.

What are the realities of starting out as an artist or designer today? How does one actually get “picked up” by a company or gallery? Without the right connections, many find it impossible to infiltrate the increasingly-saturated market. And yet, the financial constraints of having to sell one’s work are unavoidable. In Europe, recent graduates often receive government grants that help launch their careers. With such funding hard to come by in the United States, emerging talents in this country are far more bound to commercial demands.

Looking to soften the blow, established artist and designer Fernando Mastrangelo set-up the FM/S Presents platform—a non-for-profit and philanthropic branch of his successful studio—that promotes fresh talents through various curatorial and media-based projects. Since arriving on the scene in the early 2000s, the self-made-businessman has broken the mould in many ways. Using granulated natural materials as his main medium, he has gone so far as to incorporate cremated ashes and cocaine in past projects. Yet, his bold and sculptural furniture pieces are rarely sold in a gallery context. Rather, Mastrangelo often showcases his own work. “Part of my goal with the FM/S Presents initiative is to inspire young artists and designers to become entrepreneurs,” he explains. “I want to show them how to be independent; how to sell their work, without representation.”

Coinciding with the opening of his brand new 3,000 square-metre studio space last September, he hosted the first annual In Good Company exhibition. “I had four solo shows last year and instead of doing a fifth, decided to mount a group exhibit with work by young U.S.-based designers.” Mastrangelo explains. “I realized that I was at a point in my career where I wanted to start giving back. The idea was to offer these young talents the chance to show of their best work without commercial pressure; to try and give American design a better voice.

Unless you’re really steeped in this stuff, most people consider American design as Midcentury Modernism – Eames, Nelson, Saarinen, Knoll, and so on.

Though his expansive studio is located in the far-flung Brooklyn neighbourhood of East New York, its opening night brought-in over 700 visitors. On view was an eclectic yet carefully-curated selection of work: a black polyurethane lamp by Material Lust, Anna Karlin’s Moon Cabinets, a blue resin console by Facture Studio, armchairs by Studio Giancarlo Valle, the 602 Block sculpture by Wintercheck Factory (now Wentrcek Zebulon), and a sand-based painting by the host himself; among other contemporary pieces.

For this year’s “In Good Company: Material Culture” (on view till 5 October), Mastrangelo tapped Hannah Martin —Architectural Digest Senior Design Writer—as his co-curator. “She has a wide perspective and huge amount of knowledge about what’s going on at the moment,” he shares.

“Lately, I’ve been looking at people who are finding alternative ways to showcase their work; in venues that are not fairs or trade shows, both of which, we all know, costs money,” Martin explains: “In the U.S., there isn’t a great system in place to help emerging designers launch their careers. Fernando and I both realized how much of the design we were looking at on a daily basis is made in Europe. Which was all the more reason to show something else. It's so rare that American design—particularly emerging contemporary work—is really isolated and looked at by itself,” Martin reveals. Sharing notes and the same concerns, the two decided to join forces and develop a new relevant concept for this year’s exhibition.

The idea was to offer these young talents the chance to show of their best work without commercial pressure; to try and give American design a better voice

Traveling to various graduation shows—such as that of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)—the pair identified aspects of the country’s emerging yet overlooked zeitgeist. “Unless you’re really steeped in this stuff, most people consider American design as Midcentury Modernism—Eames, Nelson, Saarinen, Knoll, and so on,” Martin explains. “But I think what we’re seeing now is an interesting reaction to all of that sleek, form-meets-function thinking. In the Netherlands and Italy, there has already been a strong and radical reaction to 20th-century Modernism but in America, it’s just starting.” From this analysis, the maverick duo developed a curatorial thesis that guided their selection process. On view as part of this year’s exhibition is a diverse collection of textiles, mirrors, ceramics, lamps, armoires, tables and chairs.

Dove Drury Hornbuckle, Pansy, 2018
Dove Drury Hornbuckle, Pansy, 2018

“People are buying furniture in a more experiential way again. They want to know where it’s being made.” Mastrangelo reflects. “Designers are responding by integrating industrial techniques into their work; hijacking things you find in industrial processes to make bespoke pieces. We wanted to focus on talent who employ interesting material and processes, that are normally mundane but now elevated to an artistic level. Ian Cochron's Plumb Table was fabricated with resin; a process that is usually used in heavy production and makes it beautiful. Other works were created using parts that are pre-fabricated, ordered online, and assembled in a new way.” Playing off of the Midcentury Modern use of plywood and plastic laminate, Ryan Lauderdale’s MS Lamp was produced from components found in manufacturing. 

“It’s a return to messy and unpredictable handcrafts; the re-imagining of industrial materials for high craft and limited edition production,” Martin adds. Other exhibiting designers include Harry Nuriev of Crosby Studio, Ariana Massouh, Juliana Polastri, Thing Thing, Aaron Blendowski, Brecht Gander, Dove Drury Hornbuckle, Dozie Kanu, Erica Sellers, Jessica Martin, Serban Ionescu, Yuko Nishikawa, and Only Love is Real.

Overall, Mastrangelo emphasizes that there’s a sculptural quality that ties everything together in this exhibition. In the future, he hopes to completely step back and let a guest curator operate alone. Each next edition of In Good Company will feature an entirely new group of talents. As part of the FM/S Presents platform, he is also producing a series of video interviews published on Instagram’s new IGTV app. Some feature established talents imparting how-to-knowledge while others are studio visit of emerging creatives.

Exhibition title:
In Good Company 2018
Opening dates:
7 September – 5 October 2018
134 Hinsdale Street, Brooklyn NY

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