Robert Remer's 'Biophilia' Exhibition In Quogue Breaks Down Barriers Between Man And Nature, Indoors And Out - 27 East

Residence

Residence / 1767571

Robert Remer’s ‘Biophilia’ Exhibition In Quogue Breaks Down Barriers Between Man And Nature, Indoors And Out

icon 13 Photos
Robert Remer's

Robert Remer's "Biophilia" exhibition at Quogue Gallery.

Robert Remer's

Robert Remer's "Biophilia" exhibition at Quogue Gallery. COURTESY QUOGUE GALLERY

Robert Remer's

Robert Remer's "Biophilia" exhibition at Quogue Gallery. COURTESY QUOGUE GALLERY

Robert Remer's

Robert Remer's "Biophilia" exhibition at Quogue Gallery. COURTESY QUOGUE GALLERY

Robert Remer's

Robert Remer's "Biophilia" exhibition at Quogue Gallery. COURTESY QUOGUE GALLERY

Robert Remer's

Robert Remer's "Biophilia" exhibition at Quogue Gallery. COURTESY QUOGUE GALLERY

Robert Remer's

Robert Remer's "Biophilia" exhibition at Quogue Gallery. COURTESY QUOGUE GALLERY

Robert Remer's

Robert Remer's "Biophilia" exhibition at Quogue Gallery. COURTESY QUOGUE GALLERY

Robert Remer's

Robert Remer's "Biophilia" exhibition at Quogue Gallery. COURTESY QUOGUE GALLERY

Robert Remer's

Robert Remer's "Biophilia" exhibition at Quogue Gallery. COURTESY QUOGUE GALLERY

Robert Remer's

Robert Remer's "Biophilia" exhibition at Quogue Gallery. COURTESY QUOGUE GALLERY

Robert Remer's

Robert Remer's "Biophilia" exhibition at Quogue Gallery. COURTESY QUOGUE GALLERY

Robert Remer's

Robert Remer's "Biophilia" exhibition at Quogue Gallery. COURTESY QUOGUE GALLERY

Brendan J. O'Reilly on Apr 6, 2021

“Biophilia” is a hypothesis, popularized by naturalist E.O. Wilson, that humans have an innate affinity for nature and a tendency to interact with other forms of life.

To artist and designer Robert Remer, the term speaks to his studio’s practice: merging manmade materials with plants to create furniture, sculpture and wall art.

Mr. Remer said Monday that examining the relationship between man and nature as a grand narrative has always been an interest of his, and his work grew out of that. Not only is he mixing what humans have made with what nature has made, he is putting humans in closer proximity to nature, even indoors.

He’s worked this way for about 25 years, since the concept of biophilia was in its infancy, and has seen it gain momentum, he said.

He attributes the growing trend to the pervasiveness of technology: As there is more and more screen time in daily life, people desire reality-based and living things instead of a digital reality.

Among the reasons why works of biophilic design are different from typical sculpture or designer furniture is that they are always evolving. The plants grow, mature and sometimes die, and they can be trimmed or replaced as the caretaker of the work decides.

“The owner or curator is as much a part of the piece as the artist,” Mr. Remer said. “It’s an ongoing relationship that you have with the piece.”

Taking care of a biophilic work, on a practical level, is a bit like taking care of a houseplant, he said. However, for large pieces, such as his 10-foot-by-15-foot wallscape currently on display at Quogue Gallery in the village of the same name, a hidden reservoir and pump system makes keeping the plants watered much easier.

Mr. Remer and his Brooklyn-based biophilic design studio, Opiary, caught the attention of Quogue Gallery owners Christy and Chester Murray, who invited him to display the breadth of his oeuvre in a two-part show.

The first part, on display now, is a retrospective that shows off the range of designs in Opiary’s catalog, including seats, tables, freestanding sculptures, a koi pond with floating bowls, and the wallscape, all of which have living elements. Then, in May, the exhibition will change over to his one-off designs, both new and old, that are more personal and sculptural.

Mr. Remer had studied landscape architecture and sculpture at Yale and said he rolled both fields together into one practice. When he started on that path, he was unfamiliar with the term “biophilia,” but when he discovered it, he thought it nicely summed up what his studio does and was just the term he was after.

He gravitated toward biophilic design because combining natural systems and manmade systems was aesthetically powerful and struck him on a very personal level — and he was surprised and happy to learn that it was personally relevant to many other people as well, he said. He has also found that more and more people, like him, are interested in breaking down the boundary between inside and outside.

Some of his furniture designs feature their living elements more prominently than others. For example, “Island Coffee Table,” hand-sculpted in concrete and polished to a smooth finish, includes a dish for a plant to rise out of the table, while a large concrete Queen Anne-style table with an ipe top has small pockets for tiny air plants where a traditional Queen Anne table would have ornamental carvings.

“Part of what I like to do is take strong design from whatever era and update it to this moment and in our relationship with nature,” Mr. Remer said. “So that table, the Queen Anne style, would have little elements of nature maybe carved into the design at those points. I like to not represent the nature but present it.”

A collection of seats named “Soy Una Roca,” which translates to “I Am a Rock,” looks like boulders with plants growing from the crevices, though hidden casters make the seats easy to move around. “Drillium Chair” and “Drillium Chaise” are concrete with large holes patterned throughout them — evocative of the cyclist’s practice of drilling holes through bicycle components to make them lighter — and plants are included where the legs meet the seat.

Aside from the furniture are the works that are purely decorative. Some fit the bill of a container garden and are described as “planters” in the Opiary catalog. Then there are works that clearly fall into the camp of sculpture, such as the tall, whimsical pedestals titled “Hoodoo Stacks,” and the large ring with a circle of plants around it, including a bonsai tree on top and a hidden watering system.

Mr. Remer’s designs are customized to their environment, taking into account the climate, the amount of light and how much interest there is in maintenance. “So a piece that’s for an indoor space is going to be planted differently than a piece that goes outside,” he said.

Knowing which plants work best for different applications and how to deliver water discreetly and efficiently took years of experimentation.

“The design process is iterative and very organic,” he said. It starts with an initial spark of discovery — “Wow, that’s great! I really like that!” — and then fleshing out the idea to make it workable, he explained.

When he got started he would go out into the woods and harvest plants to put in his work, he said. These days, he uses both local and exotic plants from nurseries and finds inspiration as new plants come on the market.

Though the wallscape at Quogue Gallery is quite massive, it is hardly the largest wallscape that Mr. Remer and his team of artisans at Opiary have made: Opiary has done installations that wrap the outside of buildings.

The artistry of the design sets Opiary’s wallscapes apart from a simple vertical garden completely covering a wall, according to Mr. Remer. He said the wallscapes are approached more like paintings.

“We’re also thinking about meaning,” he continued. “It’s not just a wall treatment. It’s not like painting your wall green or hanging up a poster of a waterfall.”

The clustered plants in the Quogue wallscape form islands, while cement represents the water between them and the sky above. The lines in the cement that give a sense of flow, wave action and wind were drawn with Mr. Remer’s fingertips, which is intended as a metaphor: “They look like fingerprints, and I like to think about the fingerprints of God on the earth,” he said.

“Robert Remer: Biophilia” is on display at Quogue Gallery, 44 Quogue Street, Quogue, through May 31 on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment by calling 203-321-9427. For more information, visit opiary.com, and to view the exhibition virtually, visit quoguegallery.com.

You May Also Like:

‘Look For The Zero’ Campaign Urges Homeowners To Purchase Phosphorus-Free Lawn Fertilizer

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s annual “Look for the Zero” public awareness campaign has returned to encourage homeowners to go phosphorus-free when using lawn fertilizer. More than 100 water bodies in New York State cannot be used or enjoyed because of phosphorus overuse, according to the DEC, which wants consumers to review fertilizer bag labels for phosphorus content before buying. Fertilizer bags have an N-P-K number that shows the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that the product contains. So, for example, a bag labeled 22-0-15 is a high-nitrogen fertilizer with no phosphorus at all. Nitrogen causes ... 11 May 2021 by Staff Writer

Federal Tax Credit Of $4,000 For Lead Abatement Proposed

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is co-sponsoring legislation to provide a $4,000 tax credit for homeowners, landlords and renters to cover the cost of abating lead hazards in paint, pipes and soil. Under the Home Lead Safety Tax Credit Act of 2021, the credit would be available through 2024 to cover up to half of the cost of lead abatement. If enacted, the legislation would also supplement federal, state and local programs to replace lead pipes that deliver drinking water. “Everyone should have a home that can keep them safe from health risks, yet thousands of New Yorkers and their families ... 10 May 2021 by Staff Writer

Negative Effects Of Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers Go Beyond The Noise

It’s a warm, sunny spring day, and I’ve come home to have my lunch on ... by Andrew Messinger

Celebrate ‘Go Public Garden Days’ On The South Fork

American Public Gardens Association’s Go Public Gardens Days, formerly known as National Public Gardens Week, ... 3 May 2021 by Staff Writer

May Garden Ramble: Cicadas, Celandine, Salvation For Lilies, Flower Bed Renovation

If you’ve been paying attention to the news you may have seen some reports about ... by Andrew Messinger

Here’s To A Honey Of A Summer

Well, I’ve embarked on another season of beekeeping, and so far, so good. All three ... 30 Apr 2021 by Lisa Daffy

PHOTOS: LongHouse Reserve Brings Blooms And Sculpture Together

Renowned textile designer, artist and gardener Jack Lenor Larsen, the founder of LongHouse Reserve in ... 29 Apr 2021 by Staff Writer

East End Garden Festival Returns To Tanger Outlets May 4-9

The East End Garden Festival, a benefit for Peconic Bay Medical Center and Operation International, will take place at Tanger Outlets in Riverhead from Tuesday, May 4, through Sunday, May 9. The annual festival offers an array of annuals and perennials for sale, from flowers to shrubs and trees, all donated by nurseries and greenhouses from Long Island and farther afield. The event was initiated to support the mission of Operation International — formerly called International Surgical Mission Support — a nonprofit founded in Southampton that sends teams of volunteers on medical missions to impoverished areas around the globe. This ... 28 Apr 2021 by Staff Writer

Daffodils Of All Shades And Sizes Put On A Spring Show

When the first daffodils begin to show color, we are surely reminded that spring is ... by Holger Winenga

Herb Crestani To Lead Nemo Tile + Stone Showroom In Water Mill

New York City-based Nemo Tile + Stone is expanding its reach to the East End ... by Brendan J. O’Reilly
logo

Welcome to our new website!

To see what’s new, click “Start the Tour” to take a tour.

We welcome your feedback. Please click the
“contact/advertise” link in the menu bar to email us.

Start the Tour
Landscape view not supported
Send this to a friend