Stephen Burks: Shelter In Place
“Stephen Burks: Shelter In Place” is a comprehensive exhibition of work by the Brooklyn-based, multi-talented designer that is now on view at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.
“Stephen Burks: Shelter In Place”, an exhibition of work by the Brooklyn-based, multi-talented designer, is now on view at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The exhibition presents over 50 pieces from the past 10 years of his commercial practice alongside a new commission of conceptual products for the home developed while sheltering in place during the pandemic.
Stephen Burks is known for his hands-on approach to design, including collaborations with artisans and makers from around the globe. His career has included design objects for big brands such as BD Barcelona or Roche Bobois, as well as working as a product developer and creating workshops between artisans and companies, such as a 2015 project in which he worked with female weavers in a village in Senegal to create a series of baskets for the South Africa restaurant chain Nando. For Burks, an essential component to his practice the process of working with your hands as a way to connect more deeply to the piece being made and adding that sense of perfect imperfection that gives an object a soul. But it’s also related to finding innovative solutions in industrial production. “Hands have power. Hands have imaginative power, economic power, political power,” Burks says. His design approach is holistic, an integration of all artistic disciplines from architecture to weaving, and encourages collaboration and a sense of collective spirit. His collection of solar panelled lanterns, “The Others”, made for the German manufacturer Dedon, and on view in the exhibition, were made in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. The woven lanterns resemble anthropomorphic characters and embody the idea that we have all come from someplace else and that “there was a time when we were each the other”. The work embraces the idea of inviting outsiders in and nourishing diverse communities as a way to envision a better world.
The experimental prototypes commissioned by the museum, called Shelter In Place, emerged out of questions around creative agency and ideas of radical home making during the global pandemic lockdown. Merging personal memories, practical solutions and a sensitivity to human interactions, each of the five prototypes offers a unique take on the home; “Private Seat,” a cocoon-like portable “private place” that can be used to read a book or take a zoom call with a bit of privacy in a shared space, the “Spirit House” is a small portable altar-like object that can be used as a shrine to honour the deceased, a reflection of the massive loss of life that occurred during the peak of the Covid-crisis, or the “Woven TV” that offers a more welcoming solution of where to put the TV, all demonstrate Burks intuitive design sensibility, humour and thoughtfulness.
“Stephen Burks: Shelter In Place” is on view at the High Museum of Art through March 5, 2023.