Visitors to Inside~Out in the Garden, a new outdoor exhibit from Brooklyn design practice Kin & Company, will find pieces by over 26 independent artists and design studios meant not only to look at, but to touch – and some even to sit on.
Hosted by Saint Marks Place, a new residential complex in Boerum Hill, Inside~Out in the Garden is the second annual exhibition of Inside~Out, a “homegrown” show created primarily for the independent design community, Kin & Company co-founder Kira de Paola told Bklyner.
“The independent design community is a really cool, interesting community that we really love being a part of,” de Paola said. “But we weren’t seeing a lot of people moving to the outdoor space, and outdoor furniture seemed pretty simple still. So we were like, ‘this is a great place for this creative spirit to move into.’”
The 2021 show features the work of 26 independent designers and design studios, which, de Paola said, were originally conceived for a live show that she and her co-founder Joseph Vidich had begun planning before the pandemic. Inspired by the way outdoor furniture and design can inspire social engagement and ‘creative interaction,’ de Paola explained, the show’s theme took on a different connotation as the pandemic set in.
“We were like ‘well, the theory of social engagement seems quite ironic now, doesn’t it?’”
As social distancing became the norm, and people spent increasingly more of their time outdoors, “the poignancy of outdoor spaces ended up growing,” de Paola said. “And the poignancy of connection with each other actually grew.”
De Paola and Vidich decided to rethink the show. With the show’s original location, the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg, closed temporarily, they chose to feature the designers’ work in a virtual show, currently available to view online. The 40 designers – only 26 of whom were able to create real-life versions of their pieces in time for the 2021 live show – were asked to create virtual models of their pieces, which were set into “ethereal” virtual landscapes, the show’s website states. They were also, de Paola said, challenged to reconsider their thoughts on the show’s themes.
“How has your perspective changed -- about space, about outdoors, about creative connection?” artists were asked. “How have you rethought these things through the lens of the pandemic, and also social justice movements that were going on in the summer, too?”
Artist Naomi Clark, known for creating work that encourages visitor participation and interaction, contributed the piece titled Bubble Blanket – a 12-foot-wide circular picnic blanket that Clark painted with a colorful, abstract design, and which she intended as an alternative to the now-familiar social-distancing circles, often drawn on the ground in chalk or paint. The pandemic introduced an element of fear into social interactions with friends, Clark told Bklyner – something she tried to address with the piece.
“I hope [the piece] provides an openness to experience, and joy and relaxation and kind of fearlessness about reentering this new space,” said Clark.
While some of the artists – like Clark – fully embraced the prompt, de Paola said, a few of them interpreted it more loosely.
“Which is totally fine,” said de Paola. “We kind of put it there as an inspiration point, and 'potentially be thinking about this.’”
The piece For the Birds which consists of three tall, narrow bird houses constructed of red-painted plywood, explores a completely different kind of interaction; the idea emerged from artist Bailey Fontaine’s love of connecting with nature, said de Paola.
“All these pieces were more about engaging with the world in the way that you want to; it doesn’t have to be with other humans,” said de Paola. “It could be with the piece, it could be with nature, it could be all these different things.”
The design, which Fontaine had pitched to Kin & Company before the pandemic, stayed the same – though, Fontaine told Bklyner, it became “recontextualized.”
“I was thinking a lot about home, obviously,” Fontaine said. “Everybody was sort of trapped at home during COVID.”
He started thinking about houses that he would never get to live in, he said, “Like a birdhouse.”
Inside~Out in the Garden is on view every day from 10am to 6pm through June 24th. Entry is free, but visitors must email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-640-2262 in order to make an appointment.