Early this year, Matt Olson (formerly of the conceptual design and furniture studio RO/LU), opened a new venture. He calls it OOIEE, which stands for “The Office of Int.Est.Ext.” According to an explanatory post on Facebook, the acronym is “pronounced ‘we’ in English and ‘oui’ in French,” and the studio will “explore the transcendent notion that we are the space we are in, we’re not separate from it.” This week, he expanded by launching a landscape architecture practice called IEE, which stands for Int.Est.Ext., or Interior Establishing Exterior, in honor of the simple, refined outdoor rooms he creates for clients.
Heady stuff, indeed. One of Olson’s first projects was at the Aspen Art Museum. Titled “There’s No Separation,” the exhibition involved printing pictures of the Aspen sky onto fabric, then covering existing artworks in the gallery with that fabric. The show, he says, “created an experience of absence and presence for the museum visitor.”
His furniture is far more tangible. Not only because you can admire it as a work of art, but also can sit on it, eat at it, and converse over it. Constructed from aluminum angle iron, as well as wood, glass, acrylic, and mirrors, the three chairs, two tables, a light and some sculptural objects Olson has prototyped reflect his “interest in materials that are usually covered up when used. Aluminum angle iron, for example, is usually hidden behind a wall. But it’s really beautiful. I like intersections of material, shape, and form that have a small aesthetic surprise to them.”
A friend recently likened his aluminum angle iron chairs to “early ’80s synth music,” Olson says. “There was a built-in naiveté to that music that made it both accessible and human.” Similarly, Olson adds, his simply constructed furnishings “create an aesthetic that’s very refined and sharp, and yet gentle in a way so that it’s not seen as cold.”
The tables have tempered half-inch glass tops. “I love the way thick glass gets a coke-bottle-green tint,” he says. The light that moves through colored glass or the way it hits the mirror pieces “puts the furniture in two places at once” in a room, he says, a move that allows you to become less aware of the chair underneath your legs. “I’m interested in exploring that in a more poetic way.”
Olson’s work is currently available through the Patrick Parish Gallery in New York City and the Volume Gallery in Chicago. But he also invites people to engage in his “open practice. The work comes to us as much as we go to the work,” he says. “I’m attracted to furniture because it’s democratic. It’s design and it’s furniture. And it leaves room for a conversation that contemporary art may not.”