Gallery shows

Tula x Yuko Nishikawa: Designing life within a shell

Contributed by Emma Stolarski / Plant life is one of nature’s masterpieces. Botanical beauty, medicine, and ecological systems are integrated in every part of our lives, whether we think about it or not. Despite being here well before us and defining us as humans, plants are having an especially unique moment right now, infiltrating art spaces and cultural narratives. They are being exhibited in gallery spaces, becoming species-specific collectors’ items, and more broadly providing people with something to care for throughout quarantine blues. In a clever twist, Tula, a plant and design shop in Greenpoint, is bringing art and installation to the plants’ space with “Design for All Living Things” (DFALT), an intersectional exhibition series. 

Tula’s team is joining forces with ceramic artists to create plantscape installations, pairing desert and tropical plants with custom-designed planters. The series kicks off with Brooklyn-based Japanese artist and designer Yuko Nishikawa, who is known for fantastical lighting, whimsical decor accessories, and collectible objects. The collaborative exhibition “Obscure Plant Club” is an installation of wall and table-top planters using color and shape to exude (as well as encourage) a sense of wonder. The show brings the plant’s vessels to life in addition to celebrating the life they contain, creating a synergy between the two elements. Together, they form an entirely new being. 

Seeing plants paired so mindfully with new ceramic homes brought to mind my own home and the care it needs to keep me happy – and vice versa. Yuko’s work is a reminder that when there is chaos all around, bringing playfulness and lightness into the surroundings we can control is transformative. Her vessels serve as the plants’ shells, just as our homes have become our shells this year – protective, isolated, and somewhat alive extensions of ourselves. The show at Tula urges us to notice the ways we respond to our environment and how it responds to us, and to appreciate this collaboration with our respective spaces.

I reached out to Yuko to hear more about her own experience of designing vessels for plants. When it comes down to it, she said, she is interested in what we love and in dissecting why we love it – in this case, plants. Her pieces are inspired by scientific apparatuses, like lab beakers and jars, and she approaches our affection for and fascination with plant life with calculated curiosity and scrutiny. Pseudo-scientific as they are, her vessels are fitting statements of both our aesthetic and our organic love of plants, and of how our understanding of the plant expands when it’s conjoined with a unique sculpture. “Obscure Plant Club” can function as an immersive escape or a plant-appreciation exercise. Either way, it can inspire care, respect, and patience for the lockdown way of life that we are compelled, for now, to live within our shells.

Yuko Nishikawa, “Obscure Plant Club,” Tula Plants & Design, 59 Meserole Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. Through February 28, 2021.

About the author: Emma Stolarski is an artist, writer, and designer based in New York. She is the editorial assistant here at Two Coats of Paint and works in various studios throughout the city.

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Giving Shape to Life – S21 DSGN-264 401

  2. What a lovely piece of writing as well as being so inspiring. Makes me want to go outside, to visit a botanical garden or to get my hands into the soil. Since the season doesn’t allow that, I would love to visit the store to create my
    own plantscape.

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