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The Houston-born, New York-based furniture designer Dozie Kanu’s new work is on display at Salon 94’s “Midtown” until Friday at Lever House in New York. Credit Matthew Williams
Kanu’s marble side table plays luxurious materials off everyday objects. Credit Joshua Aronson
Meet the Young Designer Making Very Interesting Furniture
(12/Jun/2017)
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 Dozie Kanu is waiting for his bench to arrive. “I think this piece is gonna mesh really well,” he says, surveying the bright, second-floor gallery space it will soon occupy. “I’m just imagining the chrome glistening.” The bench is on its way to the Lever House in New York, where it will be installed as part of “Midtown,” a generation-bridging group show that places the work of legendary practitioners like Isamu Noguchi and Gaetano Pesce alongside nascent talents like Kanu. Open through this week, the show is a partnership between Salon 94 and Maccarone gallery.

 
For Kanu, a 24-year-old Houston transplant, “Midtown” is a milestone that called for commemoration. “The bench was created after I took a step back and looked at the reality of what it meant for me to be participating in this exhibition alongside some of the most respected individuals in the art and design worlds,” he says. 
 
Kanu left Houston for New York City in 2012 to attend the School of Visual Arts as a film student. His interest in object design grew out of an affinity for purposeful mise-en-scène. “I was into films that were really well art directed,” he says. 
Kanu turned this newfound enthusiasm back toward film and delved into set design. “Soon everyone was asking me to do the sets and art direction for their films, because no other students were focused on that. I became the go-to.”
 
While studying at SVA, Kanu took a job with the designer Carol Egan, for whom he produced samples, and then worked at Matter Made, a Brooklyn manufacturing studio. From there, he began his own practice. Last year, he designed his first piece of furniture, a chair whose sleek, midcentury curves are set off by a Klein-blue cushion.
 
His next two objects — a table made from Portuguese marble mounted on hardware store castors and a chair made from chrome tiles, a birch frame and foam armrests affixed with cargo straps — embody the same mix of high and low materials represented in his new bench. “There’s always that level of relatability juxtaposed with luxury,” he says. “Something that’s really well done, but there’s something punk about it, something to throw it off. You have to add elements that clash.”
 
Though his career has only just begun, Kanu envisions his as a generous practice — he is already thinking about inspiring the next generation. “Especially black youngsters in America. So many of them feel there are no alternatives to rap, basketball or, now, trying to be a fashion designer. There are so many lanes to take. I’m just trying to expose that to them.”

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