To fashion means to construct or fabricate something, and Rogan Gregory has been busy doing just that. After getting his start designing clothing – first with his denim line Rogan, then with the environmentally focused label Loomstate – the artist has bravely switched paths, devoting the past three years to creating tables, lighting, and other striking objects, some as small as a two-inch bronze talon.
As it turns out, his experience in the fashion business has eased the transition. “I do functional pieces, but I have the freedom to do pure sculpture too,” says the soft-spoken and resplendently bearded Gregory, whose latest creations go on view at Manhattan’s R Co. gallery this September. “When I did clothing, it was the same thing: Sometimes you’re doing jeans and T-shirts, but other times you can go beyond that.”
At his live/work house in Amagansett, New York, Gregory manipulates organic materials, from marble to beach sand, with forms that tend toward the biomorphic and the geological, as if they’ve been pulled out of the ground or washed up on the shore.
A lamp made of hard-carved alabaster, for instance, looks like nothing so much as a pearl cozily tucked away in an oyster. A coffee table of pale-pink gypsum, meanwhile, is meant to evoke a pig. And hanging from a wire is an illuminated panel in curving terrazzo that Gregory likens to a “fertility form.”
Gregory’s kitchen and dining area feature lights, chairs, and a table of his own design.
Comprising dozens of objects, his exhibition, titled “Known Unknown,” marks the first solo show at R Co.’s new three-story, 8,000-square-foot space in Tribeca. “The gallery has a lot of dimension,” says Gregory, who will hang some of his lighting pieces within the 40-foot-tall atrium. “That means I can really scale things up.” It’s no surprise that another R Co. favorite, Wendell Castle – the protean master of the American Studio Furniture movement, who died earlier this year at 85 – is a role model for Gregory.
Other inspirations came closer to home. Gregory grew up in Ohio, where his father, a sociology professor, was a sculptor on the side. The fact that Gregory is now primarily making sculpture still surprises the onetime fashionista. “It sounds stupid, but it was beaten into my head that you didn’t make a living as an artist,” says Gregory. “I didn’t know doing so was an option.”