Stephen Burks’ “Shelter In Place” Exhibition Opens In Atlanta

By Jannah Bolds
EIC, The Bold Opinion

The Covid-19 pandemic forced the world to sit still, restrict physical social interactions, and self-reflect. For some, this was an opportune moment to get creative and mirror their indoor experiences onto their work. Explore. Create. Innovate.

That’s exactly what World renowned industrial designer, Stephen Burks did during the height of the pandemic. Shelter in Place surveys the idea of making interior design enjoyably functional by redefining our relationship with home and personal space.

Burks’ Brooklyn-based studio, Stephen Burks Man Made, has been commissioned by many of the World’s leading design brands, including Cappellini, Dedon, Missoni, and Roche Bobois, to develop collections that bind handcraft with industrial production. His works with global craftspeople helped create aesthetically functional furniture, lighting, houseware, and textiles. Those collaborations hold heavy influence in this themed exhibition.

Craft As Collaboration

Burks’ practice illustrates the ways inclusive cultural perspectives can be used in collaboration to advance contemporary design. The entire exhibition is a reminder that craft can serve as a tendon to connect one another. This collection of pieces displays the breakthrough of hierarchical systems of design by making space for more diverse voices within the discipline.

Weaving As Metaphor

Although Burks displays immense design talent, he is not a weaver. Instead, he has learned from artisans from the Philippines, Senegal, and beyond to understand material flexibility. As a designer, he references weaving to create a pattern language, as expressed in the woven structure of Ahnda High-Back Wing Chair. “I wanted to talk about the overstuffed lounge chairs of the past and a way of creating that through weaving. So this, for me, is about transparent upholstery; and through weaving, we’ve created a more spatial lounge chair,” said Burks.

The beauty of this particular portion of the gallery explores the intersection of architecture and textiles to show how structure and weaving are, ironically, linked.

Environmental Inclusion

Multiple pieces in the gallery display Burks’ desire to consider product and design with a holistic approach. For this reason, he seeks to bring visibility to highly skilled craftspeople with the eye to create supportive and sustainable systems.

“Shelter in Place” includes nearly 60 works, including paintings, photographs, sculptures, textiles, and apparel that demonstrates a portion of Burks’ experience as a mid-pandemic creative.

“At a time when our domestic surroundings have become more important to us than ever, we are excited to share Stephen Burks’ work with our audience and invite them to consider how innovative, sustainable and thoughtful craftsmanship can impact our everyday lives while prompting us to think critically about the role of design in our society,” said Rand Suffolk, the High Museum of Art Atlanta’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., Director.

Burks’ Sentimental Pieces

Throughout the artist-led tour, Burks made a point to expound on a couple pieces that he’d made personal connections with during the pandemic. One of which was called “The Spirit House” and “Woven TV”.

The “Woven TV” design was a lattice shell that enveloped a flat screen television he and his partner discovered once they moved into their Brooklyn apartment. It was a reminiscent piece that represented a time where early TVs were contained in large, furniture-like containments. He built the structure to hold mementos and decorative trinkets to enliven the structure to reflect their family life in time.

Respectively, “The Spirit House” was created as a small shrine-like structure for memorials to live and be visited at the family’s desire; an honorable place to reflect, be still, and respect. In this exhibit, a photograph of Bell Hooks sits, illuminated in company.

“Hands have power. Hands have political power. Hands have communal power. Hands have creative power,” said Burks.

Stephen Burks, 2021

This exhibition is on display at The High from September 16, 2022 through March 5, 2023 and access to this exhibit can be purchased online.

Arts Cited
Cover Image: By Mike Jenson at The High Museum of Art Atlanta.

Craft as Collaboration:
A) The Others (Lanterns S, M, and Statue Lika), 2017, aluminum, polyethylene fiber, marble, acrylic and LED solar panels, designed by Stephen Burks (American, born 1969), manufactured by DEDON (Germany, established 1990), High Museum of Art, Atlanta, gift of DEDON, 2022.72.1-3. Photo by Joe Coscia.

B) Broom Thing Ambient Object, 2020, dyed broomcorn and sugar maple wood, designed by Stephen Burks (American, born 1969), manufactured by Berea College Student Craft, Berea College, Kentucky, established 1855, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, gift of Berea College Student Craft, 2022.74. Photo by Justin Skeens / Courtesy of Berea College Student Craft.

Weaving as Metaphor:
A) Anwar lamps, 2015, copper, graphite, and brass, designed by Stephen Burks (American, born 1969), manufactured by Parachilna (Spain, established 2014), collection of the artist. Photo by Joe Coscia.

Environmental Inclusion:
A) "Traveler" Indoor Armchair with Hood, designed 2015 by Stephen Burks (American, born 1969), Stephen Burks Man Made, Inc, New York, established 1997, manufactured by Berea College Student Craft, Berea College, Kentucky, established 1855. Photo by Justin Skeens / Courtesy of Berea College Student Craft.

Portrait of Stephen Burks, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.

2 thoughts on “Stephen Burks’ “Shelter In Place” Exhibition Opens In Atlanta”

  1. Great article. The pitch of the prose, is perfection in the telling us about this new exhibit Shelter in Place and the distinct style of Burks design style. After your introduction to his work I will definitely make sure to see first hand how his form actually has function as furniture. Looking forward to seeing this up close.

    Liked by 1 person

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