Included in SINGULART’s very first design sale, Where Art Meets Design, is Neal Aronowitz. Having founded his US based design company in 2014 he has since quickly won acclaim in the international design world with his bespoke, handcrafted, and almost sculptural furniture and lighting pieces.
We sat down with Neal to find out the inspiration behind his daring designs and experimental techniques.
Would you please introduce yourself and briefly talk about your background as an interior designer?
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and studied art and architecture at the City University of New York before going on to study photography and sculpture at Massachusetts College of Art. My self education as an artist continued with educational forays into metalwork, glassmaking, woodworking, and multimedia sculpture.
In 1984, I established Neal Aronowitz Tile & Stone, a successful New York City and later Portland, Oregon-based tile, stone, and interiors business, all the while designing and building furniture quietly and informally as a side business for private clients in New York, and continued to make furniture on commission after moving to Portland, Oregon. In 2014, I decided to dust off decades of sketchbooks of furniture and sculpture designs and formally established my Portland studio, focusing on designing and making art furniture and lighting.
I unveiled my debut piece, the 2014 Whorl Table at Portland Design Week. This experimental, sculptural piece is composed of a single sheet of concrete canvas—a high-tech, eco-friendly, cement-impregnated textile used in disaster shelters and drainage ditches—and seemingly defies gravity with its folding arabesques. My first lighting design, the 2015 Boro Boro Light, was included in LAMP 2015, a juried international lighting show in Vancouver, British Columbia. and earned second place in the show’s “Established Designer” category.
The Whorl Console, developed in 2017 was an international hit, winning Interior Design Magazine Best of Year, and Best Furniture at World International News in London. A documentary about the making of the Whorl Console called “How To Bend Concrete in 108 Easy Steps” won Best Short Documentary at film festivals on three continents. The studio continues to make innovative bespoke pieces for private clients and designers all over the world.
How would you describe your style?
I make highly sculptural furniture and lighting. Each piece is absolutely unique and stretches the limits of the material from which it is crafted. I continually strive to create unexpected forms that are technically and artistically challenging. I believe this striving to break through limits is what gives each piece its power and personality. Sculptural presence is a mysterious and elusive thing, and every piece has to be approached as a new exploration and discovery in order to be successful. I look to design and make furniture and lighting that can exist as a fully functional piece and still transcend that use to enter the realm of art.
As a largely self taught artist, I can look back and see a unique style and life-long arc of development that continues to this day.
Where do you find your inspiration? Has a certain piece of art or architecture inspired you recently?
I have always been inspired by the patterns inherent in natural forms and how these powerful forces can evoke sculptural presence with their inherent dynamic movement.
In a recent visit to New York City, I was powerfully moved by Santiago Calatrava’s new World Trade Center, a tour de force of architectural form that also beautifully fulfills its function as a transportation hub.
What textures, materials and tones make you excited as an interior designer?
I am very excited by the material for which I am best known- Concrete Canvas. As the only sculptor/designer in the world working with this new material, I have enjoyed breaking new ground and finding and creating unexpected forms and surface effects.
I am drawn to creating unique furniture and lighting forms and then interpreting these pieces in different materials. The studio is currently working in glass, metal, wood, and fiberglass, each material unveiling unique expressive properties.
How do you interpret the connection between art and interior design in your works?
I see art as a means of elevating and refining consciousness. When art can be integrated into a living space it can uplift the being of its inhabitants, particularly when the furniture and light are artworks in themselves.
Where do you see yourself and your company in 5 years from now? Do you have a dream project?
I would like to continue developing innovative pieces and widen the circle of clients and designers with whom I collaborate.
In five years, I see the studio opening new branches internationally and collaborating with some of the top designers and architects world wide. A dream project would be designing the Serpentine Pavilion!
Many thanks to Neal Aronowitz for taking the time to talk to us!