Hermès X Edward Granger

Q&A | Jun 2015 | BY Tali Jaffe

Walk past the Madison Avenue windows of Hermès this summer, and you may find yourself in a brighter mood. The house recently unveiled its latest Vitrine d’Artiste edition—a series of windows conceived by Brooklyn-based artist Edward Granger. This year’s theme—the series has been ongoing since 2005—is Flâneur Forever, (translation, forever strolling), which Granger interprets as an immersion in the urban environment. In his window displays, architectural elements reference scaffolding, geometric building forms and even the classic perspective drawing, referencing Granger’s own background in architecture. Here, we speak to the artist about the project—nearly a year in the making—his architecture heroes, breaking boundaries and some wise words from James Turrell.

How did your relationship with Hermès begin? When the Hermes team approached me, they had been following my maturation as an artist via social media and through various collaborations I’ve been working on. Following a studio visit or two, I presented some concepts to Hermès last year during Art Basel. From there it was weekly meetings, emails, creating drawings and renderings, working on prototypes—which finally came to fruition this summer.

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Edward Granger’s Vitrine D’Artiste for Hermès’ Madison Avenue Flagship

Let’s just say Hermès wants to thank you with any object from its stores of your choosing. What would you walk out with? If Hermès granted me any object in the store, it would probably be a toss up between the ‘Jimmy’ and the ‘Kick’ sneakers. Being that I am an ever-evolving shoe fanatic, I am constantly finding new obsession with shoes and those fit my style perfectly. They also have that laid back “flâneur” essence to them.

There’s a very interesting history of artists who have worked in window display. Did you consider any of your predecessors when approaching this project? French artistic duo Zim & Zou’s whimsical, simplistic paper structures were one of my favorites for Hermès. Those same playful, fantasy-like ideas were also used in my theme, showing strong craftsmanship.

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One of Granger’s windows, featuring Hermès accessories

In some of your work I noticed you play with boundaries, incorporating the frame. How does this approach play out in your Vitrine D’Artiste installations? Within the vitrine you will notice that many of the lines that pulsate through the walls are created to distort as well as frame your understanding of space and depth. As you glance at the angled walls, you’ll notice that the spectrum of colors along with the objects are seamlessly diffused into the boundaries of the reflected surface on the back of the wall, it abounds your senses as you notice the walls and the objects suddenly become ubiquitous with one another as they transcend into a framed ‘grid of the infinite’.

Oftentimes the idea of boundaries are pulled apart and brought to the attention of the viewer, by deconstructing these elements and putting them back together in a pure yet raw fashion, I am able to find a repetitive process that engages the viewer and makes you question your senses, which is the source of matter and the space in which we exist. If you notice the “boundary” element in my work is more about the idea rather than the physical presence of the material or form.

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Was the decision collaborative in choosing which Hermès pieces to display? The decisions as to where the products would be placed and which to display were a complete collaborative effort. However, those decisions to place the products into the window didn’t happen until the night of installation. There were no preconceived ideas with the color choices beforehand. I somewhat blindly chose a color story beforehand that was unrelated to any of the color stories in the store. On installation night, the specific hues I chose, including the pink, blue and red seemed to fit perfectly with the product colors within the Hermès repertoire.

How does your background in architecture inform your work? I have always been interested in creating pieces that ask the viewer to participate in the dialogue and/or interaction between objects and their immediate built or man-made environment. Ultimately, I feel as though architectural spaces and ideas create immersive environments for the viewer to develop a dynamic perceptive language of their own.

Symbolic architectural nuances can be found throughout the compositions of my work, from the precision, figure ground, geometric shapes, spatial awareness, and the ability to create a function in one dimension to a function in several dimensions. All this is imagery is also filled with the fragmentation of form, collapsing in time and space.

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The windows will be on display through August at Hermès’ Madison Avenue Flagship and Men’s boutiques.

Who are some of your art and architecture heroes, or particular structures you admire? To mention a few, Sol Lewitt, Jim Lambie, Victor Vasarely, Olafur Eliasson, Corbusier. But I have always had an immense fascination with James Turrell. His perceptive spaces that play with light and how it shapes our understanding of boundaries of a space intrigues me. He often times diffuses boundaries so much that the immediate horizon, corridor and/or walls seem to disappear to allow the viewer to experience a type of transcendental passage. I once read a quote by Turrell that struck me, as it’s something I often look to in my hunt for ethereal, sometimes formless works: “I am not an “earthwork” artist. I am totally involved in the sky. Let me make this very clear: the main thing is that I am totally interested in space, and not in form.”

What else are you working on this summer/fall? Currently, I am working on a mural for Google at the Surf Lodge in Montauk. In July, I will be working on a large scale mural in Harlem. During the month of August/beginning of September I will be headed to Berlin for a large-scale installation inside of the Berlin Stadtbad, which will later be featured at Contemporary Istanbul art fair.

All images by Tom Sibley, courtesy of Hermès.

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