“It’s an end table if you want, it’s a seat if you want,” muses Benjamin Critton during a recent visit to Marta, the Los Angeles gallery he founded with his partner, Heidi Korsavong, in 2019. “Those are the subjects we’re always interested in, functional things that can take various forms.”
He’s referring to stools—the focus of Marta’s next exhibition, a collaboration with veteran L.A. design dealer Joel Chen and his daughter Bianca. Together they plan to display some 200 examples across their respective galleries. At Marta, which occupies a Sunset Boulevard storefront in Echo Park, Critton and Korsavong have already gathered a smattering of contenders. There’s an early-20th-century bentwood perch from Vienna, for instance, and a rosewood butterfly-shaped seat by Sori Yanagi, son of Soetsu Yanagi, one of the founders of the mingei movement in Japan. The final mix will draw from Chen’s vast vintage collection and also incorporate numbers by 21st-century leading lights.For Marta, it’s the latest in a series of conceptual, never-boring shows that have captured the art and design worlds’ collective imagination. In September 2020, it commissioned some of today’s most avant-garde talents, among them Martino Gamper, Sabine Marcelis,and Ryan Belli, to reimagine, of all things, the toilet-paper holder. (Titled “Under/Over,” the show was a collaboration with the sustainable-TP brand PlantPaper.) This past July, a dedicated show of new work by Minjae Kim ushered the New York–based rising star into the spotlight. And last fall, Marta assisted with outfitting VDL House II, Richard Neutra’s onetime home, with a range of works by the likes of Nancy Kwon, Alex Reed, and AD100 firm Charlap Hyman & Herrero.
“We’re interested in catching people at transitional moments in their career, whether it’s someone emerging or someone who’s been practicing for 50 years, like George Sherman,” says Korsavong, referring to the Pasadena ceramist, to whom Marta gave a solo show earlier this year. In the works are exhibitions with Lagos-based designer Nifemi Marcus-Bello (page 116) and AD100 landscape architectural firm Terremoto (organized in collaboration with Isaac Resnikoff of Project Room). The latter, like many subjects of Marta’s shows, has roots in Southern California. The gallery pays constant tribute to the rich history of its surroundings, celebrating what Critton calls “the things that make L.A. L.A.” marta.la