If you went to the first iterations of SIZED STUDIO founder Alexander May’s exhibition series SIZED in Los Angeles, you encountered airy, whitewashed rooms filled with plunder from art, fashion and design, laid out in alternating rows and vignettes like an organized child might prepare to play with new LEGO set. Works by big names like Jordan Wolfson and Michele Lamy were mixed in with wunderkinds like No Sesso. Think Dover Street Market for stuff, the most special kind.
The New York iteration themed around industrialism opens this week alongside Frieze art fair. This time the stage is UrbanZen, a Donna Karan-owned West Village brownstone-turned-studio, which SIZED has made matte with the backside of Bolon flooring and paint. We got the first tour with May himself who confesses quickly that black is his favorite color—he’s wearing it head to toe with Rhude x Thierry Lasry sunglasses. Paused between a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph of a torso and BMW motorcycle, he looks like he is part of the exhibition itself.
“I’m happy to be getting back to my 1990s obsessions, my minimalism. From now on, the shows are going to get more direct,” May promises. Unlike previous editions, sharp corners and metal finishes dominate; a heavy bassline and Puiforcat silver are streaked through. I spy a Charlotte Perriand console, a hand painted Lamborghini LM002 SUV (one of 328 in the world), a Rick Owens headlamp, Matt Mullican paintings of engines, a breast-studded vase by Rooms, a Gloria Kisch rocking chair and a bong sculpture by John Boskovich.
Laid out once again in semi rows, the works feel like props in some contemporary black box theater production happening out of sight. Actors or stagehands could come any minute and pick up what they need for the show to go on. I want to see the act the Lamborghini appears in. Apparently, Tina Turner had one, and Pablo Emilio Escobar had more than one. “This is the first time SIZED is showing vehicles, 2D works and lighting,” May says. “We are looking to expand what collectible design can really reference.”
While the big tickets are thrilling, the authors that I don’t recognize as well as the show’s juxtaposing premise of industrial handicrafts are what makes it intriguing. “What happens when something is hand-built but also comes in multiples?” May asks. What happens when man and machine collude, I wonder. I get amped thinking about what isn’t there—Albert Oehlen computer paintings, H.R. Giger anything (SIZED is in talks with the artist for something else), Scott Burton’s rock chairs and Virgina Overton’s Mudflap girl weathervanes, Oto Gillen’s photographs on metal—and how those things would converse with the discoveries I’m making on the floor.
I am a sucker for Diego Villarreal Vagujhelyi’s ergonomic stainless steel dumbbells, which look like demented anodized chicken bones. I also love Rafael Prieto and Loup Sarion’s Marrow lamps which are actually based on bones. I’m also taken by the humor of Grace Prince’s Static Fragility desk light, made of different kinds of splinters. All three are examples of May’s instinct for spotting new talent and, in the first two instances, directly facilitating experimentation. The dumbbells are part of SIZED’s open edition series, which gives unestablished practices a chance to produce in series. May discovered model and photographer Vagujhelyi through a friend and encouraged him to pursue sculpture. This kind of artist support makes it feel like May is really establishing a new working model for design that encourage new voices to enter the chat.
What I’m missing on my tour is the whiskey that will accompany SIZED’s two-week residency at UrbanZen. I'll be back, though. SIZED will too. May has already found a spot in London timed to Frieze in October. He holds back the theme but, with a smile, says it's a good one.