from july 1 – 31, 2021, carpenters workshop gallery in collaboration with lehmann maupin presented the ‘second nature’ exhibition in aspen, bringing together contemporary artists and designers whose practices explore the ways in which the natural world coexists with the technological. each creator addresses this topic with a unique approach, with the pieces ranging from vibrant illustrations, mixed-media installations on aluminum panels, to organic aluminum and multidisciplinary light sculptures. featured artists and designers include maarten baas, campana brothers, nacho carbonell, wendell castle, paul cocksedge, studio DRIFT, vincenzo de cotiis, ingrid donat, mandy el-sayegh, najla el zein, teresita fernández, steven haulenbeek, lee bul, liu wei, frederick molenschot, angel otero, tony oursler, rick owens, charles tevelyan, and joep van lieshout.

 carpenters workshop gallery X lehmann maupin present 'second nature' exhibition in aspen
installation view of ‘second nature’ in aspen
image courtesy of tony prikryl

lee bul, liu wei, and mandy el-sayegh address this topic on different scales ranging from the intimate (the human body) to the immense (the cityscape). while bul’s perdu series explores the binary of the artificial and the organic, el-sayegh examines the fragmented nature of human identification through the use of medical illustrations, imprints of her body, and cultural and personal ephemera. teresita fernández explores the complex relationship between the americas and the caribbean archipelago through meticulously elaborated charcoal and wood reliefs that offer the viewer a point of stability in their own reflection among the fragmented slivers of untouched mirror.

 carpenters workshop gallery X lehmann maupin present 'second nature' exhibition in aspen
installation view of ‘second nature’ in aspen
image courtesy of tony prikryl

at the same time, nacho carbonell, DRIFT and vincenzo de cotiis interrogate this contrast through muliple media, from ipe wood, murano glass and sheep’s wool to concrete, steel, and LED light. through their light sculptures, DRIFT explores the relationship between humans, the environment, and technology. the labor-intensive, meticulous process of making works acts as a clear statement against mass production and throwaway culture. de cotiis takes inspiration from japanese gardens, bonsai and cherry trees, and uses hand-blown murano glass to mimic the effects of water. he presents these organic inspirations using materials like fiberglass and aluminum, highlighting the contrast between the natural and the industrial.

designboom spoke with featured artists mandy el-sayegh, angel otero, nacho carbonell, and studio DRIFT about their presented works, the ideas behind them, as well as how they respond to the theme of the ‘second nature’ exhibition; the relationship between the natural and technological worlds. 

 carpenters workshop gallery X lehmann maupin present 'second nature' exhibition in aspen
installation view of ‘second nature’ in aspen
image courtesy of tony prikryl

designboom (DB): can you briefly introduce the work you are presenting for ‘second nature’?

mandy el-sayegh (ME-S): there are two bodies of work: net-grid studies and piece paintings, both of which use a bloodied, wounded palette. the process for the net-grid studies is slightly different than usual, as they employ a hand-silkscreened ‘grid’ motif instead of a hand-painted one. the piece paintings explore the scrolling nature and layering of images as consumed on social media-heavy news, tabloids and entertainment all overlaid onto a body and a ground.

 carpenters workshop gallery X lehmann maupin present 'second nature' exhibition in aspen
mandy el-sayegh, net-grid study (ONE), 2019
oil and mixed media on linen, artist steel frame
122.9 x 117 cm / 48.39 x 46.06 in
© lehmann maupin

DB: how does the work seek to examine the fragmented nature of human identification?


ME-S: human identification is always fragmented and is only given cohesion through dominant hegemonic ideologies. this idea of fragmentation is present throughout my work in formal arrangements, given that no one narrative can be placed. the ‘pieces’ (or parts) inserted in the work are incidental depending on the debris in the studio or what I’m consuming at the time. they can become recurring motifs to explore the disconnection between images of the body and narratives or text.

carpenters workshop gallery X lehmann maupin present 'second nature' exhibition in aspen
installation view of ‘second nature’ in aspen
image courtesy of tony prikryl

DB: what parallels can be drawn between your observational process and the occurrence of social and political events?

ME-S: these parallels are also incidental. if I’m connecting elements in real-time, they will naturally reflect the social and political landscapes around me. there are always resonances to be made.

carpenters workshop gallery X lehmann maupin present 'second nature' exhibition in aspen
installation view of ‘second nature’ in aspen
image courtesy of tony prikryl

DB: can you briefly introduce the work you are presenting for ‘second nature’?

angel otero (AO): I am presenting a selection of new works that are a continuation of my last solo exhibition, the fortune of having been there, at lehmann maupin in new york (january 28 – april 3, 2021). each painting engages with childhood memories associated with specific objects or spaces, mostly from my grandmother’s home in puerto rico. sometimes I paint the bathtub, the dining room table, the different kinds of tiles, the chairs, the windows, her flowers… all these elements read to me as still lives: they are representational, though very distorted.

I have always been in a sort of dance between the two modes of painting. staying strictly within abstraction I feel a lack of content, and when working exclusively in figuration I feel that it can sometimes fall into too literal of a place. I like the marriage of the two—it helps me find a safe space where I can find balance within the work itself.