Johnson Trading Company showcases the work of vintage and emerging designers in New York and California showrooms. “It started as a flea market in Chelsea,” said gallery owner Paul Johnson. What began as a Lower East Side flea market has become an influential space for mining contemporary furniture talent with a bi-coastal presence.
The gallery recently opened a new Los Angeles showroom that occupies 15,000-feet, complete with an outdoor area furnished with a sofa constructed of foam and industrial rubber by Max Lamb. Johnson and his director Erika Orman are selective about the small cluster of designers they represent. “I’m really slow. I don’t take on that many. I’ve only taken on one or two recently,” Johnson said. “I only represent five or six designers at a time. It’s a lot about timing it’s the type of relationships. You find those moments.” The inventory includes new works by Simon Hasan, Kwangho Lee, Aranda/Lasch and Ben Jones. Vintage offerings include George Nakashima tables and Wendell Castle chairs.
In May, interior designer Rafael de Cardenas showed his furniture design in a solo exhibition at the New York gallery space. Johnson and de Cardenas connected several years ago around the L.E.S. scene, but when Johnson came across his conceptual talents in the boutique design of A New York Thing and the art space OHWOW, something clicked for Johnson. De Cardenas worked under Greg Lynn on the redesign of the World Trade Center site in 2002, before opening his firm Architecture at Large in 2005. He has created interiors for restaurants, hotels and private residencies. His furniture is engaging, flush with bright colors.
This summer, Johnson Trading Gallery will return to Art Basel in Switzerland, exhibiting two projects by British-based artist Lamb — one conceived of bronze and another of stone — produced on location in China and in his London studio.