May 19, 2022

Hugo França’s natural wood furniture arrives in the Rockies


Those who do not believe in parallel universes enter with an open mind in the latest exhibition at Galerie Marianne Boesky. Staged in its Boesky West outpost in Aspen, Colorado, which opened in 2017, “Tropical Molecule” brings together the divergent but strangely interconnected works of designer Hugo França and artist Thiago Rocha Pitta, two Brazilians who bring the natural world to life through sculptural furniture and ethereal art, respectively.

França’s works have long been prized by design as a whole. Made from the remains of pequi wooden trees salvaged from deforestation measures (now banned) in Brazil, his rough and craggy furniture preserves this rare wood in unconventional forms. “Treating this ancestral wood is a kind of archaeological work for me,” explains França. The 63-year-old designer still creates more than 100 pieces a year, including a new bench that debuts at Boesky.

In a residence in Hawaii, a Hugo França tree trunk bridge spans the swimming pool. Photo: Dominique Vorillon

Photo: Dominique Vorillon

Twenty-five years her junior, Rocha Pitta has a similar affinity with nature, which is embodied in the watercolors and frescoes of “Tropical Molecule”. Although the couple only recently met, in the midst of a discussion about working together for Rocha Pitta’s new studio and founding in a rural area of ​​Brazil called Petrópolis, their work focuses on many of the same touchstones: the texture, nature and power of what lasts, defying conventional manufacturing methods in the process.

“When we think about exhibition ideas for Boesky West, we always consider the context,” says Adrian Turner, gallery partner. “Experiencing art in Aspen, with its incredible scenery, is very different from seeing shows in New York. “

Hugo França’s Caacica bench (2017) is located outside Boesky West.

Photo: Tony Prikryl

The work of the two artists has obvious links with the natural environment. The flowing forms of Rocha Pitta’s watercolors and frescoes represent microorganisms, while França’s sculptural forms showcase the majesty and texture of pequi wood. “The cyanobacteria that we see in Thiago’s watercolors are the same organisms responsible for the physico-chemical processes that are at the origin of wood, my raw material,” explains França.

“Although Aspen is quite different from the landscapes of Brazil, there’s this other layer to seeing their work here,” Turner adds of the wintry climate and how he plays with these colorful tropical works born in a hemisphere. As the team set up the show, they considered the lines of sight through the windows to the icy landscape, and even where pedestrians could peek past. Outside the stone-gray exterior of the gallery, França’s new bench sits next to a pile of snow.

On installation day, Rocha Pitta is charmed by the interconnection of it all. “If we consider that all the carbon chains of the wood of [Hugo’s] The sculptures have been structured through dozens if not hundreds of years of photosynthesis, ”he says,“ you realize there’s a continuity between the two that really matters.