Paul Donzella, of the eponymous 20th-Century Decorative Fine Arts store, is debuting a new exhibition, 'Heavy Metals,' from November 9th through December 21st.
by New York Spaces photographer Eric McNatt
NYS: We are so excited about your upcoming exhibition, "Heavy Metals." What inspired you to craft this show?
Paul Donzella of Donzella: Over the past few years I'd noticed a considerable increase in the number of metal pieces that found their way into my inventory. This was happening completely organically; I did not set out to increase my metal footprint in any way. But when I actually stood back and acknowledged this shift, I thought it would be fun to explore and celebrate it with an exhibition. My interests in this particular genre are quite vast, spanning many periods and styles, and having an exhibition gives me the opportunity to dive further into it.
NYS: What do you think is important to acknowledge about metalwork both historically and in the present?
Paul Donzella: Well metal has always contained an element of science and industry where design is concerned.
It's not like wood, where you can cut down a tree and start carving and forming things. With metal, there have always been particular methods required to achieve your design goals. Casting, welding, hammering... and now so much can be done with computers to achieve works in metal. I'm as fascinated by the steps and processes required to get there as I am by the beauty of the finished work. I also love learning about how the methodology evolved over the 20th century. There are so many directions to explore when deciding to create something out of metal, and to me this range of possibilities is exciting.
NYS: What time period and styles can we expect the exhibition to cover?
Paul Donzella: I've always been obsessed with the metal work coming out of Austria in the first half of the 20th century. The Wiener Werkstatte has been widely celebrated for decades now and I love this material so much. But I thought it would be really interesting to explore some of the highest level of work that was produced during this period by the Hagenauer Werkstatte, a lesser known but very important family-run studio that did extraordinary works in metal and wood. I have early pieces by them from the 1920's and some exceptional later work as well, going all the way to 1970. Another small family team that I am featuring is father & son Philip & Kelvin LaVerne from right here in New York City. As with Hagenauer, the LaVernes had a very distinct way of working with metal, and I am exploring only the rarest and most desirable level of their creations in bronze, mostly from the 1960's and early 70's. Also from the 1970's I'll be showing two rare pieces by Italian designer to the very chicest, Gabriella Crespi. I will also have fantastic sculptures from the 1960's & 70's by Claire Falkenstein and Bill Tarr. Then I have a strong showing of contemporary work in bronze & brass, by Alexandre Logé from France, and 3 different contemporary Milanese artists, Roberto Giulio Rida, Ghiró Studio and Fedele Papagni. I also have contemporary work by New York-based multi-disciplinary artist Ghiora Aharoni, who coincidentally has a one man show opening this month at the Rubin Museum here in NYC.
NYS: Tell us about some of the sculpture you will be showcasing. What drew you to these pieces in particular?
Paul Donzella: I will be featuring a number of important sculpture in Heavy Metals. I've always been drawn to sculptural furniture & lighting pieces, so the progression to showing actual sculpture seemed like a natural one to me. As I mentioned above, I have 2 substantial sculptures by Claire Falkenstein. This was work she did upon returning to California after 10 years of living in Europe. This is probably her most iconic and productive period. I also have a tour-de-force 7' tall bronze sculpture by Philip & Kelvin LaVerne. It is hands down the greatest piece of their work I have ever come across. It's at once brutalist and organic in feel. I'm also very excited about a brutalist totem sculpture in corten steel by Bill Tarr from 1962.
NYS: What do all the artists whose works you are showcasing have in common?
Paul Donzella: Most of the artists whose work we'll be showing in Heavy Metals are studio artists who produced either on one-of-a-kind pieces or small numbers of multiples. Working this way allows an artist to have greater control in the quality and details of their work, and in this way the creations retain a higher level of integrity.
NYS: What is one of your favorite pieces and why?
Paul Donzella: I know this is going to sound bad, but I truly love every piece I have selected for Heavy Metals. This makes it very difficult to chose a favorite, but I suppose I do have a few. Metamorphosis console table by Philip & Kelvin LaVerne is for sure one of my favorite pieces in the exhibition. Also the Karl Hagenauer table lamp from 1926; I'm just crazy about this lamp. For me it encapsulates a very specific time and place in design history, and this piece, probably more than any other in the show, is the one I want to take home.
NYS: We are obsessed with Charles et Fils' Sweet Corn Lamp. Tell us about it!
Paul Donzella: The Charles et Fils Sweet Corn lamp is really a gem. I love seeing each individual kernel of corn and the gold hue cast onto this silvered sculpture base. There's this great play between the ordinary subject of the lamp and its formal treatment from the high quality of the casting to the stepped pedestal base. The brushed metal shade lined in a gold color is a very nice touch as well.
NYS: Do you foresee another exhibition in the future for Donzella?
Paul Donzella: Definitely. I love doing these exhibitions when they make sense. I hope to do another before too long.
Ghislaine Vinas' passion and belief in 'the aesthetics of happiness' revolves around the importance of creating environments that are practical and easy to live in—where people simply feel good and want to spend their time.