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Love It or Leave It

Ten NYC designers explore consumerism, religion and the detritus of the American dream

by Maggie Roush Mead in Design on 30 May 2012

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The second-floor space at Gallery R'Pure has been transformed into a visual conversation about what America means today. "Love It or Leave It" explores notions of consumerism, patriotism, religion and the suburban dream through the critical eyes of 10 acclaimed New York-based designers.

The idea for the show was conceived during months of brainstorming by both the designers and gallery director Odile Hainaut, who described the process as "organic." Hainaut had previously worked with six of the participating designers on 2011's "Brokenoff Brokenoff," which honored the life and work of the late designer Tobias Wong. Each piece was created with the gallery space in mind and in dialogue with the other artists involved. "Even though the show is based around an idea or a concept," Hainaut says, "each design reflects the personal aesthetic of the designer." Here, three standouts from the remarkably diverse and well-balanced collection.

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Positioned in the center of the gallery, a striking picket fence appears to be wilting. The fact that the sides of the fence in "The Dream"—which is made of a PVC composite material—are painted white and black suggests a division in the experience of the American suburban ideal. New Jersey-born artist Brad Ascalon says that the piece was born from his frustration with the consumerism and lack of personal responsibility that has come to define American society.

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"The Tote Series" by Dutch designer Alissia Melka-Teichroew explores the tendency of American product design to value functionality over beauty. Each of her white leather bags features an increasing array of functional features until the fourth bag in the series, which is rendered ridiculous with its overabundance of pockets, zippers, and handles.

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A deeply personal piece that draws from Frederick McSwain's childhood in rural North Carolina, "Cells" features 84 framed Polaroid photos taken by his bail bond agent mother, depicting the people she helped get out of jail. Presented in a large grid pattern like a large spreadsheet, the powerful images bring up questions about freedom and imprisonment, as well as our impulse to categorize the things and people around us.

"Love it or Leave it" opened during New York's 2012 Design Week and is on view through 1 June 2012 at Gallery R'Pure. Visitors must ring the doorbell to access the second-floor exhibition space.

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