Something In The Water: Green River Project LLC
Something In The WaterGreen River Project LLC
The interior works of Ben Bloomstein and Aaron Aujla exist in the in-between of fine art practice and pragmatic liveable design. This careful balancing act permeates the greater context of their quarterly collections of objects and furniture.
Their two-man operation, dubbed in 2017 as Green River Project LLC, was conjured perhaps somewhere along the river banks in upstate New York’s modest Columbia County. It was here that the aforementioned duo (who each worked as art gallery assistants in New York City at the time), would take these impermanent trips up north for contracting jobs to outfit the interiors of private residences. That time away from the metropolitan bustle manifested the beginnings of the company that operates today. A designer-contractor studio of sorts, Green River combines the artists’ former practises as painter (Aujla) and sculptor (Bloomstein), to provide new context for interiors and furniture building.
From the onset, together their production focus centred on ultimately useable and practical design objects, with inherent nuances coveted by those in the art sphere. Their initial collection presented an exercise in basic lumber, constructing rigid geometric forms reminiscent of Donald Judd’s canon. Following collections evolved into more of social studies, where cultural reference served as the instigator for design.
As seen in the exploration of textiles and structural bamboo from Aujla’s Indian heritage; or the re-appropriating of found ancient vessels as fixtures for interior lighting. Their most recent project takes on modernist approaches; studying the architecture of New York’s Chrysler Building, scaled down to imagine furnishings for the office and home.
It is interesting to see contextual threads taken even further, by the ways in which each new offering is presented within specific environments, whether organically or staged. Last Fall, Green River’s collection provided the seasonal backdrop to Bode’s alluring ready-to-wear clothing presentation. Collection 4, released at the end of 2018, followed Aaron and Ben back to familiar grounds upstate where aluminum-made structures were juxtaposed against the elements of nature. It comes to no surprise that their newest space, a storefront/showroom in lower Manhattan mimics the geological environment of which the company name was founded on. A blanket of pebbles covers the floor, transported directly from Green River itself, to keep them forever rooted upstate and grounded by an anthropological philosophy in design.
Interior works by Green River Project LLC and select pieces from Collections I-III remain on display and available for order at Neighbour’s 51 Powell Street location or by enquiry.
When did you first meet, and what ultimately led to you joining forces as Green River Project LLC?
Ben and I met in 2010 outside 303 Gallery, it was a Sue Williams show curated by Nate Lowman. Ben was outside and found out he just got approved for an apartment in South Williamsburg. We talked about that and what he was going to build to outfit his place. We shared a studio in Bed-Stuy he got from Alex Hubbard after that. It was a crazy building, on this kind of crazy block. I remember there was this storage for fluorescent tubes that Alex had removed from the boxes and roped together and hung in the bathroom. There were a lot of crazy features to the studio that we inherited but also embellished. In a way, it lead to us thinking about design.
Why did you both decide to move your primary focus from fine art and sculpture to interiors and furniture?
We shared different studios for about 7 years and outfitting the spaces were always the most fun. In the summer of 2017, we decided to start Green River Project LLC, making a full-time go of doing interiors and making furniture. We were kind of bored with the conventional way of selling art, especially because of the nature of the work we were making. Ben was always interested in making sculpture using metal and wood, pieces that would trace the lines of the body and relate to a person’s volume in an interior space. I was making paintings and installations about interiors. I remember my art dealer telling me that the fullest pursuit of my work would be in doing the interior of an apartment. Conversations like that really stuck with us.
As a research-based, context-driven design practice - can you share a notable instance when an idea for a piece or a collection manifested itself to you?
This last collection, Ben wanted to make work based on the period when Manhattan was beginning to build skyscrapers. His grandfather was a naval architect and worked in the South Street Seaport from the early 40s to 80s. Ben started with materials (different metals and black wool) and designed the collection from there. In the end, it was airline parts that his brother Nicky sourced from his airfield upstate that helped round out the industrialist look of the collection. So, often it starts from one idea and develops quickly around that.
As a tandem, how simple or complex is it to keep focus on one thematic collection together at a time?
It's actually something that really works well for us, almost keeps us more on track as a duo designing together. It's like both working at a common goal.
Your earliest collections employed basic lumbers like pine board and African mahogany, what was intriguing about the use of these materials?
We like to just let the material speak for itself, rather than embellish it and make it seem like something more special than it already is.
Can you elaborate on the sconce tribute to Sasa Radikon, or the ones made of airplane components?
Ben found the anfora vessels a long time ago and we always wanted to make something from them. It wasn't until we were working on Collection II last year that we found a use for them as sconces. Ben and I both love Radikon and wanted to incorporate the winemakers of Friuli Venezia Giulia. Ben just visited those vineyards and hung out with Franco Terpin and producers like that.
India has been a subject of your work, how large a part does the study of cultures play in your design?
We worked with Emily Bode on making furniture inspired by my ancestral heritage in the Punjab. We had traveled there last year and found a bunch of approaches we wanted to try out for our third collection. It's important to us because we try to make work about certain interests or narratives that are close to us.
Aside from furniture, the welding jackets you’ve produced with Bode add another way to design. In what ways has your ongoing collaboration helped to develop GRP?
We’re working on uniforms with Bode this year which will be exciting, we all wear our clothes out really quickly, whether onsite or in the shop so it would be fun to be able to work with Emily to make some uniforms for us that last but also look good.
What type of retail environment do you hope to provide with your new East Village storefront?
We're open Friday to Sundays now, Bode's muse/model Allistair Sow works in the shop, it's a cool vibe with the kind of an environment he creates. He plays jazz, likes Don Cherry, Sun Ra and Coltrane. He usually has flowers from Sunny and Annie’s deli. It's a place to hangout, there’s always some neighbourhood friends in there. Ben and I rotate the collections in and out of the space in between the exhibitions we have four times a year. Right now there are some African Mahogany pieces and bamboo stuff.
Green River Project blurs the line of fine art, social study and interiors design, which way do you lean in how you want your company to be defined?
Yes, all of those appeal to us, we like the idea of social/historical research informing the products we produce. Ben and I see ourselves as outsiders to the design world.
Did you ever consider the company to be named AABB LLC? : )
Haha, our friend Zak Kitnick really wanted that to be our stationery. Eric Wrenn designed our font type and stationary/website but when we showed it to Zak he asked, "How did you miss the opportunity to have it say AABB!?”
In the spirit of a good Neighbour, can you name a fellow person of interest who you believe deserves some attention?
Kurt Beers! Any chance we get we usually have Kurt help us with painting on furniture or textiles, or helping us choose cool plants to have in our store, or wine - he has really good taste. The screen he painted (in your 51 Powell Street Objects store) was one of our favourites.