WE’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT HEART VALVES
MURRAY MOSS: DIALOGUES BETWEEN ART AND DESIGN
PHILLIPS DE PURY, OCTOBER 2012
by Natalie Fasano
Listening to a Murray Moss...
Murray Moss, founder of Moss gallery in New York City has spent his life surrounded by objects, prodding his clients to rethink their relationship to art and design by showcasing his pieces within what appears to be a private living room. On my last trip, oversize white couches separated by a modern coffee table adorned with flowers, books and other symptoms of “décor” greeted my entry. In a way, it is jarring as we have all come to expect something else of the “gallery” space: white walls, one thin bench if any which we shift and mill around to look, consume and leave. At Moss Gallery, we are forced to adjust our expectations to understand what is before us—the vignette of a home. Moss believes in the intrinsic relationship between art and design, that one feeds off the other and that there is no shame in considering a piece as perfect for our home without denigrating its potential cultural value behind plexi glass in a public museum.
When we lift our paddle in pursuit of a coveted piece, want this object to impose itself on our consciousness on a frequent basis. Although art is not a living, breathing organism its quality as delicate—whether attributed to age, material or price—necessitates an alteration in the viewer. In his short film for Phillips, “On Taste,” Moss discusses this quality as relates to a chandelier created of very thin glass. The (unnamed) potential buyer designates breakable glass as a BAD glass. Moss respectfully disagrees. To the buyer, he recalls responding:
“Don’t you want to take a vacation from your self and imagine the possibility of a thin glass being a good glass?...The thinness gives you the thinnest possible frontier between your lips and the liquid. That’s already sensusal, okay? It requires that you modify your behavior because in order to get through drinking that Coca Cola you need to become a more graceful human being. If you could become graceful and also get to drink a glass of Coca Cola what’s that worth to you?”
In other words, art, design and the viewer are engaged in a complex relationship—symbiosis preceded by confrontation. Both need to give a bit to the other. A perfect example of this aesthetic feng shui is characterized in the (bookcase) (Moss’ private collection) installed vertically against the wall at Phillips, like an installation. It is beautiful in its presentation; you come back to it again and again wondering why it is so resonant yet discordant to expectation. Abandon expectation and Aha! I want it.
Perhaps Phillips was the perfect place to toy with value. Whether we can afford the lot or no, it is impossible not to walk through the preview and consider what we would do with it, where we would put it, could we own it. In this way, we do own it. We imagine these objects in context of our private spaces—that corner of the living room, above the archway in my one bedroom studio apartment in Brooklyn. Standing in the middle of my studio. We ask: How can art and design augment the private spaces we curate for ourselves? In the end, décor—art, furniture, coffee table books, lamp shades and lighting fixtures—define the homeowner. Should not, then, objects be as capable of change as the human who inhabits the home?
Going back to the “good” glass, can art and design make us more graceful, malleable, compassionate, better hosts? Perhaps not. But by imposing these objects on our physical space, our personal musings and our private lives we can challenge ourselves every day. Moss ends his anecdote:
“That’s why that glass is valuable and a good glass in those circumstances. Now if you said is that heart valve easily breakable and I said ‘yup’ and you said ‘that’s a bad heart valve’ I would go ‘you are dead on.’ But we’re not talking about heart valves.”