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Samuel Ross, Whitewaller Miami

Samuel Ross Deepens the Dialogue of Design

Last spring, Samuel Ross debuted a series of chairs at Friedman Benda in New York. Named “SIGNAL,” they were made with materials like steel and finished with lacquer and rubber coating and explored ideas around healing while referencing traditional West African stools.

Ross is known for his groundbreaking fashion label A COLD WALL*, which launched in 2015 with the aim of saying what needs to be said, in this moment, through fashion. The artist approaches design in a similarly natural way, communicating ideas that are critical, poignant, and evocative.

Whitewaller reached out to Ross to learn more about his “SIGNAL” and new “RUPTURE” series, which will be presented in a solo booth by Friedman Benda at Design Miami/ in December.

Samuel Ross, Whitewaller Miami Portrait of Samuel Ross by Oliver Matich, courtesy of Friedman Benda and Samuel Ross.

WHITEWALLER: You recently teased a new series with Friedman Benda quarried and milled in Tuscany. What was the starting point for this series?

SAMUEL ROSS: Initial development for “RUPTURE” began in October 2019. Mediating the tension points between hand-based craft, industrialization, and traditional West African folk art being the intention behind the treatment of

materials and making processes.

This is underpinned by an ongoing channel of thought I and confidants have been pondering, discussing, and grappling with. It’s a little existential—the absurdity, obscurity, even, of the contemporary experience of the Diaspora. In particular, I’m homing in on the working-class Black-British Caribbean existence. It is essential that the dialogue is specified, removing the homogenous nature of previous conversations surrounding the typology.

The engagement, partial integration of modernism, brutalism, and Western color theory are engaged within the works—oddly enough, this framework is a default, by way of daily engagements, learned sensibilities, and presets.

Samuel Ross, Whitewaller Miami From Samuel Ross’s “RUPTURE” series, photo by Oliver Matich, courtesy of Friedman Benda and Samuel Ross.

WW: How do these pieces relate to recent works in your “SIGNAL” series, like Trauma chair, Recovery chair, and Signal-3?

SR: “SIGNAL” follows a genealogy, beginning with Trauma Chair. The running order transforms man-made materials through firing, lacquering, rubberized coating, and integrating materials such as molasses to express a process of sorts. The works explore the feeling of healing, regeneration—be it amorphous at times—and, of course, pain. The seating shapes themselves reference traditional West African stools and chairs of the Benin region, specifically relating to the Edo era.

Proportions are heavily distorted, as with “RUPTURE,” the intentional skewing of the artworks goes beyond an engineering feat. It exemplifies my outsider perspective, dislocation, and position on the region noted above—the relationship itself is an abstraction.

WW: Can you tell us about your choice of material for the “RUPTURE” series?

SR: Steel and marble: Both represent absolutes—sensitive, emotional, organic fragilities in dialogue with reductive, linear, brutalist, geometric forms. Historic connotations of both materials are well understood. There is an absoluteness, through sheer density, that both materials carry. This volume, magnitude even, operates as a through-line to the intensity of firing explored within the “SIGNAL” series.

The malleability and industrial history of steel, the particular reductive shapes crafted, the flatness of each metal component, the desensitized means of fabrication. There’s a pressure that is visible between both materials when engaged together. Pairing of the two materials brings movement—there is a tension, a velocity, alluding to a breaking point, a reduction of pleasantries.

Calcification, veining—marble responds as a partially living material, flecks and imperfections. Partial transformation of organic materials—it is a process that will continue to inform all artworks developed.

Samuel Ross, Whitewaller Miami Samuel Ross’s “RUPTURE” series, photo by Oliver Matich, courtesy of Friedman Benda and Samuel Ross.
Samuel Ross, Whitewaller Miami From Samuel Ross’s “RUPTURE” series, photo by Oliver Matich, courtesy of Friedman Benda and Samuel Ross.




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