Just in time for the holidays: Local artists share handcrafted works in 'Site Specific L.A.'

Even if Los Angeles makers and design studios are secure in their collective identity and reputation, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to get a boost from an outside perspective.

That’s what will happen when "Site Specific L.A." opens on Saturday, Dec. 5 at Austere in downtown Los Angeles. The Scandinavian-focused hybrid retailer and gallery at Hill and 9th streets founded by advertising executive Fredrik Carlström has invited the online media outlet Sight Unseen to curate a holiday retail exhibition showcasing L.A. makers. Carlström and the duo behind Sight Unseen are New York City-based, yet have found themselves spending more time in L.A. in recent years.

“They are really the leader of finding emerging design, and they’ve become a launch pad,” observed Carlström about the Sight Unseen team. “I thought it would be interesting to see their point of view on the L.A. design scene.”

“It wasn’t very hard to come up with a list of people we were really into,” said Sight Unseen co-founder Monica Khemsurov. She and business partner Jill Singer then invited select “people to show off whatever they wanted to show off.” Sight Unseen is also known for its OFFSITE pop-up events during the International Contemporary Furniture Fair and NYCxDESIGN; "Site Specific L.A." is its first West Coast venture. 

Khemsurov and Singer tapped L.A. designers and makers including fiber artist Tanya Aguiñiga, ceramicist Bari Ziperstein, lighting designer Brendan Ravenhill and furniture designers Shin Okuda of Waka Waka studio and Michael Felix. Objects will be on view and available for sale through Feb. 14. With 5,000 square feet, plus a roomy mezzanine level that’s flooded with natural light, Austere is an ideal venue for small-scale objects, or as recent installations have proved, partnerships with prominent Swedish businesses such as Volvo and Absolut Vodka, for the Absolut Art program.

The expansive and flexible Austere showroom opened in May 2014. Austere maintains a retail presence at the Maidstone Hotel in East Hampton, and Carlström is planning a New York City location as well. During "Site Specific L.A.," Austere’s ground floor will continue to display a selection of contemporary, one-of-a-kind vintage and iconic furnishings and home and personal accessories that almost exclusively hail from Scandinavia. Carlström’s design interests range from Alvar Aalto’s classic tea trolley to Mandal Veveri blankets from Norway to electric Danish Biomega OKO bicycles.

Meanwhile, "Site Specific L.A." has wound up being conducive to crossover efforts too, since ceramicist Ben Medansky is working on pieces with Long Beach-based artist and furniture designer Eric Trine. “That’s what we love about the people we work with,” Khemsurov said. “They’re super open and they love to collaborate.”

Another manifestation of this cooperative creative spirit is the Mast Brothers pop-up shop coming to Austere, featuring a limited edition Stockholm-inspired toasted milk chocolate bar that Carlström developed with the Brooklyn-based brand, which is currently building its Arts District factory and shop.

Austere, 912 S. Hill St., downtown Los Angeles, (844) 287-8373; www.austere.co

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