The work of Rooms Studio has concerned itself with questions of nomenclature since the Tbilisi-based design atelier was co-founded by Nata Janberidze and Keti Toloraia in 2007. Take, for instance, the studio’s name: in adopting the basic unit of interior space as the title of their practice, Janberidze and Toloraia also emphasized the emotional force of interiority and inner life in determining their creative output.
The studio’s largest U.S. exhibition to date, Distant Symphony expands upon this impulse to focus inward. The title is again a chief concern—some of the objects included here were designed during the global pandemic, under a regime of forced isolation that made the studio’s typically collective work process untenable. The pieces shown here are the results of Rooms’ search for a way forward.
The first room, an antechamber of sorts, evokes the intimate quality of a private home. Shown here are trinkets and personal effects chosen by Janberidze and Toloraia for their emotive qualities; a low background noise emphasizes the climate of urban domesticity. The ensuing gallery space features highlights of Rooms’ recent design output. Here, the subtle scent of organic materials provides a sensory indication of the atelier’s interest in dichotomies: natural and man-made, personal and collective, local and cosmopolitan.
In light of the global circumstances, Janberidze and Toloraia felt it was especially important to pursue collaborative work. Rooms invited three artists—Shotiko Aptsiauri, Salome Chigalashvili and Mariana Chkonia—to conduct a dialogue and shared design process. As such, this exhibition is a kind of polyphonic meditation on a need for solitude and desire for companionship. The practice of polyphonic singing, essential to Georgian folk culture, is reinterpreted here as a design endeavor. Chigilashvili, working with unprocessed yarn, interpreted folk motifs by adapting embroidery to the scale of furniture with expansive stitches applied to painted boards. Whereas Aptsiauri proposed beeswax as a material solution for the Sacral Geometry collection, to which the wax stool and candle holder on view belong—the haptic qualities of these pieces will be familiar to anyone who has seen beekeepers tending to their hives in the Georgian countryside or watched candles burn inside a Georgian church.
Also included in the exhibition are objects from Rooms’ celebrated Wild Minimalism and DNA Archive collections, both of which seek to apply Georgian artisanal knowledge to the design of contemporary furniture. Both collections mine “our identity,” as the designers call it—a return to the roots of highly localized expertise. The curvilinear wooden chairs of the Wild Minimalism collection evoke primeval thrones with their palpably hand-carved quality; whereas the wooden chess table, from the DNA Archive collection, takes inspiration from Soviet-era public furniture still found in Tbilisi.
And therein lies the affective logic of Distant Symphony—call it what you may, but the important part is that you feel it too.
About Rooms Studio Tbilisi
Academy of Art graduates Nata Janberidze and Keti Toloraia founded Rooms studio in 2007. Born and raised in then-Soviet Tbilisi, Georgia, their body of work immerses Soviet aesthetics with traditional Georgian motifs. Their vision is an integration of storytelling exploring different directions and mental acuity. The duo works with raw, natural, and abundant materials using traditional carving techniques to create sophisticated and symbolic shapes often rooted in the designers’ childhood memories. Growing up in a culturally diverse environment, where the two worlds – Western and Eastern – collide, remarkably influenced their design language.
Over the years, Rooms has created nine independent collections equally memorable and representative of the duo’s perpetual mission to bring life to omitted elements of formerly everyday life.
About Emma Scully Gallery
Born and raised in New York City, I had the opportunity to cultivate a passion for art, history and culture from a young age. I was an Art & Archeology Major (Art History) at Princeton University, where my advisor and mentor Robert Bagley sparked my passion for decorative arts and design. This led me to go straight from undergrad to an MA at the Bard Graduate Center for Decorative Arts, Design History and MaterialCulture. I interned at the American Wing and European Decorative Arts Departments of the MetropolitanMuseum of Art, Christie’s European Decorative Arts Department, and the education department of theBrooklyn Museum while a Master’s student. After finishing my MA I worked part time at Mallett Antiquesbefore my three and a half years at 1stdibs, where I helped vintage and antique sellers as well as small contemporary makers sell through the website. In 2018 I moved to Los Angeles to work for Rose Tarlowand began exhibiting and expanding my design collection there. At the end of 2020 I left my job with RoseTarlow to focus on Emma Scully Gallery full time.
I founded Emma Scully Gallery in November 2018 to commission, collect and curate contemporary design. My collection uses design as a lens to examine the relationship of the digital and physical worlds.In exhibitions at my Los Angeles loft, and through outside installations and partnerships, I use academic curation to increase the interest of functional art.