Text: Alec Coiro
Photo: Lauren Coleman
“Afterglow” is a pretty hip name for a show, but a more accurate one might be “Right Now Glow,” as the designs coming out of Lindsey Adelman’s studio consistently set the tone — and one might even say the standard — for what is cool in contemporary lighting design.
Taking place in Lindsey Adelman’s gorgeous showroom on Great Jones Street, “Afterglow” showcases works by Adelman and two members of the studio: Karl Zahn and Mary Wallis. The result is a perfectly self-curated show combining three designers who work together so closely that they complement each other on an almost ribonucleic level.
Mary and Karl were gracious enough to walk me through the show, and the first thing I was curious about was what the collective design process was like at Lindsey Adelman’s studio a couple blocks south on Lafayette. According to Mary, “We’ve been working together for 8 years, so we know each other really well. The process is we mock it up just using plastic or whatever we can get from Blick art store before we do this. Then we look at it and have a crit together.” It sounded a lot like art school to me. “It really is,” agreed Mary. Mary and Karl had both been working as designers for Lindsey Adelman and maintaining their own studios on the side. Until, Mary says, “One day because Lindsey’s so cool, she said what if I manufactured your work.” And thus Mary Wallis’s and later Karl Zahn’s imprints were born.
One day, because Lindsey’s so cool, she said what if I manufactured your work. - Mary Wallis
On display by Karl Zahn is the Kingdom series, which is a series of enormous jointed light fixtures that can be draped to match one’s desire (or interior). These joints (Karl calls them “knuckles”) fuse together to form a spine that in one instance stood straight up and in another formed an arc and in the most traditional version formed a drape. As the grand size (and name) makes clear, the Kingdom series is not the type of design meant to meld seamlessly into the background. Rather it is a bold, imaginative marvel of simplicity taken to its most fascinating extreme. And yet because of the flexible spine, “you can make them with an organic lilt to it that references the architecture around it. It starts to interact with the environment in a way that a standard light fixture wouldn’t.” Thus it is inventive in the best way, not for its own sake but rather in the service of design goals.
From Mary Wallis, we have the Edie Series and Empire Series. These two veins of her work were nicely contrasted for me by Mary herself, who pointed out that while Empire is about unity, Edie is about explosion. What sort of room would you want an explosion in? The type of room that you want to express energy and vivacity and life lived to the utmost, of course. The sense of focused motion in the Edie lamps is undeniably thrilling. Empire, on the other hand, emits a pervading calmness. The understated geometry works to shepherd the gentle glow of the light fixture into existence. In the case of Empire, it’s large size does not make impose itself. Rather it serves as soft beacon in the room.
From Lindsey Adelman, herself comes the Cherry Bomb series. Globes of light set off in what Mary Wallis describes as a “more and more architectural” design. The Cherry Bombs work as hanging lamps and can be quite cleverly deployed as a room divider. The Cherry Bomb series also continues the “Afterglow” subtheme of larger-sized work. Large though they may be, the Cherry Bombs don’t come off in any way imposing, particularly the fringed version, which strikes me as wispy and flirtatious — the bulb is dim and atmospheric, you run your fingers through the fringe…It’s the sort of lamp Blanche DuBois might have dreamed of owning if things had worked out with oil tycoon Shep Huntleigh and she’d had more modern tastes.
“Afterglow” unifies itself around forces of nature. But for me, personally, the unifying theme was the way each piece captured my imagination.
There are countless reasons to visit “Afterglow”: a walk down historic Great Jones Street; the beautiful showroom; the canonical modern art hanging in that showroom; the nest of cozy pillows that awaits you. If those reasons aren’t enough, let our wholehearted recommendation of the pieces on display be what finally sways you.