Lily Sullivan


The Los Angeles-based designer Brian Thoreen is a veteran of the art world, having worked across architecture and design for a number of years. Two-and-a-half years ago, he left the design firm that he founded to begin working with furniture, taking inspiration from each step of his career: “experimenting, art, relationships, skateboards, jobs, switching careers, research, learning, mentors, good teachers, bad teachers, good clients, bad clients, and everything else.” Noting the importance of standards and philosophy in design no matter the scale, his approach did not change as he approached his furniture collection.

Thoreen’s first solo show “Unsettled” is a testament to his career, with each piece as precise as it is surreal. The guidelines around which the works were built are an integral component of the composition. Free of fasteners, the designs are forthright, relying “solely on the weight, balance, and integrity of each component,” explains Thoreen. Similar to his design process is the treatment of materials, as he prefers to work in the purest state—allowing a conversation to happen between the materials and designs, the two informing each other as the piece develops. “Constantly refining each form, material, and moment of contact without compromise in this way allows each piece to maintain its own sense of purpose,” Thoreen states further.

Brian Thoreen, Shift Table, 2017.

Dialogue exists not just between the materiality and design of each piece, but also among the pieces, working together to complete the collection. Whether it is similar finishings or elemental principles, each work is as abstract as it is real. The Reaching Console stretches to meet while its delicate glass is cornered by a larger brass piece. The Cantilever Tables offer a similar tension, as the glass is suspended in air, pressed together by stone and metal pieces. A series of vessels speak to the larger pieces throughout the gallery by offering the same refined tension.

When examining each precarious piece, viewers are struck with the same flood of heightened emotion. Delicate yet grounded, our fear is quickly dissuaded by the solidity of the form, with a level of structural honesty and integrity that becomes part of the viewing experience. “The idea was to create forms and components that cannot function on their own without the support of the other components while at the same time creating as much tension as possible between the materials, the balance, and the weight,” Thoreen says. The show’s title, which originally reflected the anxious and uneasy feeling of the artist at the time this collection began in a seemingly uncharted space, grew to describe the pieces themselves—three-dimensional representations of that feeling—graphic, dangerous, and unsettled.

“Unsettled” is on view through March at Patrick Parrish, 50 Lispenard Street, New York.

Brian Thoreen, "Unsettled," installation view, 2017.
Lily Sullivan
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