When is a showroom not just a showroom? For one, when it happens to be Bulthaup doubling as a gallery or kunsthalle. That’s Tibbie Dunbar’s word, and, in her role as the company’s business development lead, it’s her concept, too. The idea, she says, “is to celebrate architects, designers, and artists by curating interesting experiences.” She’s been doing so since 2016, coming on board after having served as the executive director of the A+D Architecture and Design Museum in Los Angeles and being awarded honorary membership in AIA/LA. Pre-COVID, L.A.’s design crowd flocked to Bulthaup’s meet-ups for exhibitions by Interior Design Hall of Famer Neil Denari, transmedia artist April Greiman, as she calls herself, architect Jimenez Lai, and photographer Michel Bocande. Dunbar has also put together dinners plus fundraising projects for the healthy food-based nonprofit Common Threads. The endeavors, however, are not limited to Los Angeles, where she is based. Some travel; some are curated specifically for a particular showroom in Bulthaup’s national network comprising New York, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, and Washington, D.C. Most recently, she collaborated with sculptor-ceramicist Maria Moyer in The City of Angels to launch a 23-piece exhibit of stoneware works hauntingly called The Scent of Light. The connection was made, and plans were launched pre-COVID, in January 2020 when Moyer had just moved to L.A. and set up a studio in the creative hub of Frogtown.
Then came the shutdown. Undeterred, artist and curator mounted the show, on view through Nov. 16. Moyer’s first L.A. show, it can be seen on-site by special appointment or virtually through the Bulthaup showrooms’ websites.
“I saw the non-gallery location at Bulthaup as an opportunity to share how people can live with sculpture at home,” says Moyer. “Here, my work is exhibited in a kitchen environment, the heart of most homes and the least formal room.” In other words, in this environment the sculpture ceases to be intimidating. Especially given the unusual placements. One piece is perched on a range hood. Another reaches down from its stove-top position. “A bit of humor works,” Moyer continues. “Then people discover texture that begs to be touched.”
That texture derives from an ancient Roman surface treatment called terra sigillata or sealed earth. In her hands it takes form as “a complex network of topographical patterns that I try to enhance with metal oxides.” Seen up close, the texture dispels initial notions of a uniform surface that comes from distant viewing.
As for the show’s title and its seemingly incongruent mixing of the senses, Moyer cites its reference to a scientific study she had read about years ago. “It explored sensory experience by confounding the neural receptors of light with those of scent. Ultimately, the subjects could smell light,” she explains. “The concept piqued me, underscoring how little we know about our natural world, yet science is the best method we have for advancing fact over popular fiction.” Truer and more appropriate words could not be found for today.