Daniel Reynolds x CC
Born in Venezuela and schooled in Oxfordshire, UK, with a father from Chicago, artist/designer Daniel Reynolds grew up in a world rich in design history and eclectic influences.
I read that your childhood home had furniture by Arne Vodder, Harry Bertoia and Scandinavian artisan pieces; while the city of Caracas you experienced in the 50’s and 60’s was a golden era that attracted design masters like Gio Ponti, Oscar Niemeyer, Jean Arp, Fernand Leger, Victor Vasarely and of course, Alexander Calder. So, you were literally surrounded by legendary design from a young age.
What is your earliest memory of art and how it affected you?
My earliest memory of art is associated with the paintings my father did in his spare time, when not at his TV production business in Caracas in the mid 1960s. These were mainly portraits of the family and still life studies. My parents also collected contemporary Latin American painting, mostly figurative in genre.
My godparents were an engaging couple from New York, living in Caracas at the time, their house was literally filled with contemporary sculpture and painting. My siblings and I would wander around their house exploring these works by artists such as Kenneth Armitage, Barbara Hepworth, Jesús Soto, Jim Dine, Elsworth Kelly: taking them in our stride, only later realizing the marvels we had been looking at.
Also, as you mention, and hard though it may be to believe today, Caracas in the mid 1960’s was a treasure trove of the best in contemporary art, architecture and design from around the world.
My mother, a lover of classical music, would take us to hear concerts almost on a weekly basis, at the Central University’s auditorium (known as the Aula Magna), whose giant acoustic ceiling was designed by Alexander Calder in 1953. Though little known in Europe and the US, this project is considered one of his masterpieces; executed in collaboration with the architect Carlos Raul Villanueva.
Works by the renowned kinetic artist Jesús Soto, being a native of Venezuela and one of the leaders of the Latin American Geometric Movement, were a part of the visual language of the city; with large sculptures easily accessible in the foyers of modern buildings and in other public spaces.
All of this, naturally, influenced my way of looking at the world.
We’ve been honored to represent your work in our shop for the last few years, after Billy and I met you at ICFF in NYC. Your engaging kinetic mobiles stopped us in our tracks! The marriage of craft and art, as well as the playful character of movement make for a joyful installation. People viewing your work are attracted to the gentle and meditative way the sculptures move.
Is there a lot of experimentation with materials and weights to make the mobiles hang properly?
What I like to do before constructing one of these Mobiles is to make a group of elements, many more than I will need for a particular piece, in order to select the few I think will work well together. I tend to decide on particular shapes and make several of each in different sizes and weights. This gives me the freedom to find the right one to create both a physical and a visual balance for the sculpture.
I use mainly ceramic elements at the moment, with often one or two shapes in coloured glass. These are made to my design by the talented glass artist Roberta De Caro, who works in London and Milan. I occasionally include other materials, such as bronze, natural gourd and wood, in order to explore contrasts in materiality, weight and texture between the elements.
The geometric forms (and colorings!) are signatures of your work, but there is a more subtle play at work with how the mobiles and materials interact with light. Do you have recommendations on how to display your pieces at home, to fully capture all of the elements of your art?
I do think these pieces come to life when light plays on them. This can be achieved by hanging them in a spot where natural sunlight will fall on them at a given time of day, but they will also benefit in my view from a direct spotlight, allowing shadow play to be a part of the effect. Also, if possible, at least one aspect where a plain white wall is visible behind it. (This may sound too prescriptive, and is only my opinion.)
You’re a carpenter, a painter and a ceramicist. How do these elements all come together in the work you’re doing now?
I have very recently taken the time to pursue an aspect of my work which has been on my ‘to do’ list for some months. These are wall mounted reliefs in ceramic, based on or stemming in large part from, the shapes which occur when making three dimensional elements for my Mobiles.
I feel these are a happy blend of painting (or a kind of collage) and ceramics; with my questionable skills as a carpenter coming in useful when mounting the fired pieces onto a painted wood support!
So far I have realized three panels based on the propellor shapes I create for my mobile sculptures. These are left unconstructed, at the stage where I cut them from a hand rolled panel of wet clay. I then selectively glaze and fire different sections, creating a contrast between bare matt stoneware and shiny surfaces.
In the spirit of modernist paintings I have admired from the mid twentieth century, I’ve decided to frame them very simply in aluminum angle. This creates a subtle shadow around the raised panel which complements the work.
I have a few large blank canvasses around the studio which I would like to find the time to work on. My last exhibition of abstract paintings was in 2016 at Someth1ng Gallery in South London, where I showed acrylic on canvass works along side ceramic ‘Grid Abstraction’ sculptures. The tile of the exhibition was ‘Abstracted Geometry’
Do you have music playing in the studio? If so, what is on your current playlist?
I mostly listen to BBC Radio 3, which is the classical station, leaving it to the programmers to surprise me with their selections of classical music spanning several centuries.
When a change is need from that, I go to my all time staples; Bessie Smith, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Stan Getz / Joao Gilberto, Radiohead. More recently Amy Winehouse and right now the wonderful American born British soul singer, Celeste.
With pieces that are primarily built by hand, that incorporate a wide mix of materials such as porcelain, stoneware, glass and out of the ordinary materials such as dried gourd, everything you create is one-of-a-kind. Is there a material or process that you would like to explore?
I’m looking again at metals such as bronze and aluminum and at using them in conjunction with wood and gourd to highlight the contrast in these various materials.