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This summer, Hermès’ commissioned Brooklyn artist, Edward Granger to design the store windows of its New York flagship. On display until the end of August as part of Hermès’ Vitrine D’Artiste program, the Madison Avenue store will display Granger’s colorful and electric New York City landscape. Whitewall spoke with Granger about his collaboration with the French fashion house and what’s next for the emerging artist.
WHITEWALL: How did the Hermès Vitrine D’Artiste collaboration come about?
EDWARD GRANGER: When the Hermès team approached me, they had been previously watching my maturation as an artist via social media and through various collaborations I’ve had created in the past. During Art Basel 2014, I was asked to show some concepts and drawings of my interpretation of the theme “Flâneur Forever” for 2015.
WW: How does your background in studying architecture influence your creative practice, specifically with this project?
EG: I owe an obvious debt to my architectural studies for all of my works. Ultimately, I feel as though architectural spaces and ideas create immersive environments for the viewer to develop a language of their own.
Within the Hermès Vitrine, you find your perceptive language is largely based on which angle you view the windows, changing your perception as you walk from one window to the next. The placement of the floating objects were intended to give you the physical presence of a one-point perspective drawing with a vanishing point, where suddenly inanimate objects have the illusion of movement. Many of the lines that pulsate through the walls are created to distort your understanding of space and depth.
WW: How were you inspired by the architectural landscape of New York? Which landmarks did you include or reference to in your project?
EG: I wanted to have elements that would transcend the viewer through imagery of an urban explorer or the connoisseur of a majestic, electric New York City landscape. I wanted to use materials that were simple yet symbolic to New York City. Moving from metal to represent the scaffolding fire escapes, and new architecture amongst the city, to matted paper boxes, which represents the more natural and raw, simple, exposed, older architecture of New York City.
Much of the older Art Deco, or Art Moderne buildings (Film Center Building interior, Chrysler, Chanin, interior of Empire, etc.) are idealized within the windows through bold colors, and geometry. Much like the flâneur, it’s about being idle, or idealizing the past and an appreciation for it. I wanted to revert back to those elements to give the viewer a way to fantasize about the past.
WW: What was the experience like working with Hermes? Do you feel a personal connection with Hermès ‘s Flâneur Forever, or the brand itself?
EG: Hermès is giving emerging artist a platform to create works that are liberating and sententious with almost the entire input coming straight from the artists, themselves. I am entirely “create as I go”, experimental/process type artist, therefore I don’t usually produce drawings or sketches of work beforehand. I prefer to create things on a trial and error basis and use it if I like it in my oeuvre of spirited paintings, murals or collages.
After five or six months of weekly meetings, emails, creating drawings and renderings, working on countless prototypes, and communicating how the windows would look when it finally came to fruition just before the Summer 2015 season began I realized this experience has not only helped me grow as an artist, but also given me a eye-opening opportunity to appreciate the art form Hermès s uses to craft each collection. Being that I was approached with the theme of “Flâneur,” which means “stroller,” “lounger,” “wanderer,” I wanted to have elements that would transcend the viewer through imagery of an urban explorer or the connoisseur of a city landscape.
WW: In many of your pieces there is an aspect of nostalgia and childlike playfulness, how did you incorporate that aspect into your work with Hermès s?
EG: I tend to have an optimistic approach to creating my works and personal liberation is key with everything I do. Many of the elements that are juxtaposed in the Hermès windows appear to flicker, and pulsate which leaves the viewers visual tension ravenous and curious of what’s next as their perception of view changes from one window to another. It’s a constant form of play and I ultimately feel that’s how children view and think, with constant curious fantasy.
I often romanticize about crayons and Lite Brite, both essential tools of my early childhood. Many of the color choices I use can be comparable to opening a fresh box of crayons and seeing the crisp vibrancy for the first time, or plugging the pegs into a lite brite machine and finally seeing a glowing neon pink come to life.
That nostalgic feeling alone gives me a plethora of inspiration to get lost in. Which is why I titled the piece “I tried to find you but I got lost in my imagination.”
WW: In another interview, you mentioned that New Yorkers veer away from color. Why did you want to incorporate color for this project?
EG: One is inclined to draw comparisons between my penchant for a reduced, primary color-palette, and that of the Fauves in the early part of the 20th Century, especially when considering my ties to French Creole art, which often includes large fields of color. But in French there is a word we use “sauvage.” It means wild one, or one without inhibitions. I tend to be fearless with how I experiment and organize my color palette, keeping it bold, fresh, with a mixture of opposing hues.
There is something I still romanticize about with my roots and my French/Cajun/Créole upbringing. You can find authentic, brilliant color in some of the liveliest cities in the world, some of them being in south Louisiana, more so in New Orleans. Those Cajun/French roots are very similar to that of Flâneur, as one may find the culture very relaxed, sometimes idled with no specific purpose, yet is immensely attuned to its history, culture, art and character. That is something I wanted to bring with me to New York City.