Entering one of David Wiseman's immersive installations is like discovering the beautiful landscape of Narnia inside an austere wardrobe, guaranteed to elicit wonder and even a creeping belief in magic.
The Los Angeles-based designer has made a name for himself by creating painstakingly crafted pieces that range from limited-edition small objects to intricate worlds of flora and fauna, using materials as diverse as porcelain and metal. Since graduating with a bachelor's in furniture design from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2003, he's sculpted 500 handmade porcelain lily-of-the-valley blossoms for Christian Dior's flagship store in Shanghai; crafted ghostly porcelain sycamore "bark" that sprouts copper, brass and steel leaves above the West Hollywood Library's staircase; and interlaced wisteria vines and linden leaves made of porcelain plaster and bronze for an indoor, multi-story project in a Manhattan home.
About half of Wiseman's works are custom commissions, limited-edition objects and installations that grace private homes. The other half are smaller objects, lighting sculptures and furnishings that are sold through R & Company, a New York City gallery. Prices range from $6,500 for smaller pieces to more than $400,000.
Wiseman, 33, grew up in the Oak Knoll neighborhood of Pasadena near Huntington Gardens and says that exposure to art and nature as a youth inspired much of his work as an adult. "I was so saturated with [it] that when I went to school, I knew exactly what kind of art I was drawn to and what I wanted to make. In the long East Coast winters, I found I was craving the West Coast landscape."
Wiseman's studio, a former sewing factory in Glassell Park, is a constant buzz of activity with nine other staff members working on various projects, moving from the more meditative space reserved for porcelain, ceramic and plaster to the noisier section that houses a foundry. Wiseman calls this a "laboratory" modeled after the open studios of his alma mater. "I encourage everyone to experiment and bring something fresh to the table. That's why I wake up in the morning: to explore the possibilities of all the different materials that I work with."
More than a decade after his seminal senior project, in which he scavenged fallen trees and cast them in a kind of three-dimensional wallpaper, Wiseman has transitioned to creating abstract, dreamlike wonderlands of nature. But the end remains constant. "My goal in creating work was always to bring nature indoors."
New works from Wiseman are on display in his second solo show at R & Company. One object, a delicate cracked bronze egg, hangs from the gallery's ceiling. Its crevice reveals porcelain quince flowers, jostling for space. For another piece, Wiseman worked with a fragrance designer, Haley Alexander van Oosten of L'Oeil du Vert, to create textured spheres that house ebony soaked in signature scents.
"Everything is pretty hard to make," says Wiseman, who spent 21/2 years creating his latest exhibition, "but that's not necessarily by design. I really just believe in making, learning about what the material wants to do and bringing out what I believe are the most beautiful attributes of that material."