Art in 5: James Turrell

“His work is not about light, or a record of light; it is light — the physical presence of light made manifest in sensory form.” New Yorker critic Calvin Tompkins on James Turrell

Hi, it’s Erika Brechtel with a third installment of “Art in 5!” Thus far, I have focused on a painter (Ellsworth Kelly), a sculptor (Auguste Rodin), and a photographer (Julius Shulman), so today I thought I would highlight an installation artist, James Turrell. I have been fortunate enough to see his work at an art gallery in Chelsea, at a museum in Scottsdale, at the ARIA hotel in Las Vegas, and at a small gallery in Wynwood, Miami this past December during Art Basel. What fascinates me about his work is that it seems so simple — flooding light into a controlled environment. But what you don’t expect is that you completely lose your sense of depth perception to the point where you are not certain of where the walls are, where the floor and ceiling is, if the illusion of an object you see is real or projected. In some of his spaces, your mood can even change depending on the color of the light. It is precisely this human interaction and perception of reality that defines Turrell’s groundbreaking work. The gist:
Here are some examples of his work:
PROJECTION PIECESA Turrell Projection is created by projecting a single, controlled beam of light from the opposing corner of the room. The projected light appears as a three dimensional form.
Alta Blue 1968, London
Afrum Pale Pink 1968
Pullen White 1967
WEDGEWORKSIn a Turrell Wedgework, the precise use of projected light creates the illusion of walls or barriers where none exist.
Wedgework 3 1974, Holland
Milk Run, 1996
Raemar Pink White 1969, LACMA
GANZFELD“Ganzfeld”: a German word to describe the phenomenon of the total loss of depth perception as in the experience of a white-out. Turrell artificially creates a similar experience through the controlled use of light, coved corners and an inclined floor.
Armta 2011
Double Vision 2013, Oslo
SKYSPACESA Turrell Skyspace is a specifically proportioned chamber with an aperture in the ceiling open to the sky. Skyspaces can be autonomous structures or integrated into existing architecture. The aperture can be round, ovular or square.
Open Sky 2004 Chichu Art Museum, Japan
The Color Beneath 2013, Oslo
TALL GLASS / WIDE GLASSA Turrell Tall Glass or Wide Glass piece is an aperture with frosted glass. LEDs are positioned behind the glass and programmed to change slowly over the course of several hours. A glass can also be curved. Each Tall Glass or Wide Glass light program is unique.
Coconino 2007
Mohl Ip 2008, Phoenix Art Museum
I personally love the ones that remind me of Rothko paintings. (Read my past “Design Under the Influence” column on Rothko here)
If you’re in LA, definitely catch the retrospective on James Turrell at LACMA until next Sunday, 4/6/14. I’ve got my tickets!
Images and descriptions from
Top image: Akhob 2013, Louis Vuitton, Las Vegas

Art in 5: Julius Shulman

Case Study House #22 by Pierre Koenig, photographed by Julius Shulman, 1960
“…One of those singular images that sum up an entire city at a moment in time…” — New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger
Hello, it’s Erika from small shop with our third “Art in 5”! Since we’ve covered a painter (Ellsworth Kelly) and a sculptor (August Rodin), today I thought I’d discuss a photographer: Julius Shulman. I actually had the immense honor of meeting Shulman at his house in 2007 through a family friend. At 96, he was as sharp as ever, and quite a spitfire. One of the questions he brought up during our encounter I still ponder to this day: What’s more famous: the architecture, or Shulman’s photograph of the architecture?

I remember he seemed to say with both pride and a hint of bittersweetness in his voice that he was still at that time making a living off of work by mid-century architects like Neutra and Lautner who had all passed away decades before. But in a symbiotic kind of way, these same architects became famous initially because of his photography. Would we even know some of these structures if it wasn’t for his beautiful photography?

If you’re not too familiar with him or his work, but have seen a few of his images, here’s what you should at least know (and two little fun facts about two of his most famous photographs that he revealed to us that day!)…
And here are some of his photographs that you may or may not know:
The Spencer House Malibu by Richard Spencer, photographed by Julius Shulman, 1955
The Booth House by architects Smith & Williams, photographed by Julius Shulman, 1956
Convair Astronautics by architects Pereira and Luckman, photographed by Julius Shulman, 1958
The Chuey House by Richard Neutra, photographed by Julius Shulman, 1958
Case Study House #20 The Saul Bass House by architects Buff, Straub & Hensman, photographed by Julius Shulman, 1958
Case Study House #21 by Pierre Koenig, photographed by Julius Shulman, 1961
Case Study House #22 The Stahl House by Pierre Koenig, photographed by Julius Shulman, 1960
“Chemosphere” by John Lautner, photographed by Julius Shulman, 1961
“Chemosphere” interior by John Lautner, photographed by Julius Shulman, 1961
Silvertop House by John Lautner, photographed by Julius Shulman, 1980
One of my favorite quotes about his work comes from Newsweek magazine’s Cathleen McGuigan who wrote that Shulman’s photographs of modern glass houses in Palm Springs and Los Angeles “are so redolent of the era in which they were built you can practically hear the Sinatra tunes wafting in the air and the ice clinking in the cocktail glasses.”
Cin cin.

Art in 5: Auguste Rodin

“The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.” –– Auguste Rodin

Hello, it’s Erika from small shop with the second installment of my new “Art in 5” column! This month I decided to focus on the most well-known sculptor in modern history, Auguste Rodin. You most likely have heard of him — and have even seen in person one of his 28 “The Thinker” statues around the world — but you may not know much else about him. You may even see his work around and immediately think “classical sculpture” but not realize that he was actually considered very avant-garde and non-traditional for his time. Here are a few quick bits about why that may have been:
Some of his beautiful work:
Mignon” 1869 (modeled after his longtime companion and eventual wife, Rose Beuret)
“The Shade” 1880
“The Thinker” 1880
“Eternal Springtime” 1884
“Danaïd” 1885 (modeled after his assistant and lover, Camille Claudel)
“Faun and Nymph” 1886
“Orpheus and Eurydice” 1892
“Draped Torso of the Age of Bronze” 1895
“Pygmalion and Galatea” 1908
“The Cathedral” 1908
Which is your favorite? Have you seen his work in person?
Images via

Art in 5: Ellsworth Kelly

“I have worked to free shape from its ground, and then to work the shape so that it has a definite relationship to the space around it; so that it has a clarity and a measure within itself of its parts (angles, curves, edges, and mass), and so that, with color and tonality, the shape finds its own space and always demands its freedom and separateness.” — Ellsworth Kelly

Hello, it’s Erika from small shop! After 30 installments of “Design Under the Influence” I decided it was time to move on to a fresh new column! If you didn’t know, my B.A. is in Art History, so I thought I would bring some of my background to you, providing you with quick and easy synopses of art periods and artists throughout history. Fun, right? And as I am off to Art Basel in Miami tomorrow, I can’t think of a better time to kick it off! First up, an artist that you may have seen and heard a lot of, but didn’t know much about. Well, consider yourself learn-ed, with my new column “Art in 5″…
More Ellsworth Kelly:
“Study for Combe II” 1950, cut pasted colored paper pencil
“Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance VI” 1951, cut pasted colored paper pencil
“Study for ‘Cité’ Brushstrokes Cut into Twenty Squares and Arranged by Chance” 1951, paper collage with ink
“Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance II” 1951, cut pasted colored paper pencil
Study for Rebound” 1955, ink and pencil on paper
“White over Black” 1963, painted aluminum
“Magnolia” 1965, transfer lithograph from drawing
“Spectrum IV” 1967, oil on canvas, 13 panels
“Cupecoy” 1984, lithograph on paper
“Houston Triptych” 1986
“The Yangtze” from States of the River series, 2005, lithograph
I hope you learned something new today! Let us know what you think.

Currently Obsessed: September 2015 Part 1

carolina herrera frick

I thought it might be fun to do a new, abridged version of my old “Currently Obsessed” posts. I love the idea of sharing what is currently inspiring me, including things that may not be directly design related, but those posts always took so many hours to compose and I didn’t write them as regularly as I would have liked. This new version will be more visual and will be a way for me to share what is currently on my radar and what I am obsessing over.

New York Fashion Week is coming to a close today. A few of my favorites for the Spring/Summer 2016 season are Carolina Herrera‘s beautiful collection which she showed at the iconic Frick Collection. I loved the soft, feminine palette.

carolina herrera frick2

Carolina Herrera Spring 2016

Tibi had the collection that I would actually wear the most. After the success of her recent off-the-shoulder tops (I have two!), I am excited to see she has a couple of new versions along with plenty of chic, easy separates.

Tibi Spring 2016

tibi spring 2016-2

tibi spring 2016-3

tibi spring 2016-4

Tory Burch‘s new collection is a little Bohemian-meets-Uptown Girl which is a reflection of Tory’s personal style and the aesthetic upon which she has built her incredible empire. I would picture wearing the pretty blue and white dress in the first photo to a garden wedding and the cool knit dress on vacation in Spain.

tory burch spring 2016-2

tory burch spring 2016-3

Monique Lhuillier always does a beautiful job. Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t prefer to wear dresses. I am very feminine, but I am more Kathryn Hepburn than Audrey Hepburn. I love wearing tunics or dresses over a cigarette pant for evening, so I loved this particular look. It is right up my alley!

monique lhuillier spring 2016

Tome‘s collection felt like an ode to the classic white shirt, presented in a fresh, modern way.

Tome Spring 2016

Next up, Schumacher recently launched their newest designer collection with none other than Miles Redd. I have been a huge fan of Miles’ talent and fearless style, so I am very excited about this launch and have plans to use his beautiful new fabrics in upcoming projects. The marketing collateral coming from Schumacher, and for this collection in particular, has been completely brilliant!

miles redd schumacher horizontal

miles redd schumacher3

Speaking of textile launches, I have been working on a fabric and wallpaper collection for Guildery featuring my original designs. The collection is live on the site today. Our big launch will take place next month, but in the meantime, you can see a sneak peek and be one of the first to order with a special savings of 30% off now through Tuesday, 9/22. It has been a big labor of love! I am so excited that Guildery was able to capture the painterly quality of my original sketches in the final designs and am thrilled to partner with a company that offers such high quality fabrics printed on demand.

Paloma Contreras Guildery

While we’re on the topic of exciting projects, Paloma Contreras Design was recently asked to design a room for a special show house. Stay tuned for more details soon. It will be beautiful!

Paloma Contreras Design Dining Room Sketch

On another, completely unrelated note, many of you know that reality shows on Bravo are my weakness. They provide a fun escape from the stresses of daily life. One of my favorites is Ladies of London which has been back for a couple of weeks. Who else is watching? I am #TeamMarissa. I think Juliet has been insensitive and is unable to see things from anyone else’s perspective. Have you noticed that they all have amazing skin? Caroline’s quips keep me in stitches!

ladies of london

I usually spend a little while on Pinterest in the evenings to unwind after work. I have been busy pinning images of Dodie Rosekrans incredible apartment at the Palazzo Brandolini in Venice. It was amazing! Jus look at these incredible pagoda canopy beds with the tassel detail!

Dodie Rosekrans

Lastly, my good friend, Mark Sikes will be in Houston for a MDS Stripes trunk show at A Bientot next week! Be sure to stop by next Friday, 9/25 and Saturday, 9/26 from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. We’d love for you to come by to say hello and to stock up on chic stripes!

MDS Stripes A Bientot

Paloma Signature