Furniture Works by Jorge Zalszupin, Master of Brazilian Modern Architecture, Go on View at Sean Kelly Los Angeles

The exhibition "Zalszupin 100" celebrates the late pioneer of Brazilian modernism on what would have been his 100th year on earth.

Installation view, "Zalszupin 100." Photo: Brica Wilcox, courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery.

The furnishings exhibition “Zalszupin 100” at Sean Kelly Gallery in Los Angeles celebrates late Polish-Brazilian designer Jorge Zalszupin on the centenary of his birth. A pioneer of Brazilian modernism, Zalszupin died in 2020, two years before turning 100.

Curated by Brazilian design specialist Ulysses de Santi, many of Zalszupin’s works on display have been procured from private collections. Over the last two years, the gallery painstakingly sourced the custom furniture he made for offices and homes across Brazil between the late 1950s and early ’70s. Some pieces belonged to Zalszupin’s loved ones, like the Ina armchair, which he made for (and named after) his sister. 

Zalszupin worked as both a furniture designer and an architect, ran one of the largest furniture factories in Brazil, and in his later years explored painting. His oeuvre is connected by his use of sensuous lines, a modernist sensibility, and an affinity for working with nontraditional materials and woods native to Brazil. His work contains references to both global design trends and his own experiences, such as Tea Trolley, a bar cart inspired by the baby strollers he saw growing up in Poland. 

Jorge Zalszupin, Tea Trolley (ca. 1960s). Brazilian jacaranda, rosewood, metal. Courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery.

Jorge Zalszupin was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1922. In 1949, he made his way to Brazil, where he fell in love with the landscape and the architecture, and lived the rest of his life, becoming one of the definitive designers of Brazilian modernism.

His foray into furniture design began soon after he launched his architecture practice in Brazil in 1951. Clients began requesting pieces to match the aesthetic of their buildings and Zalszupin was ready to meet their demand. In 1959, he created his first work of furniture—Poltrona Dinamarquesa, or Danish Chair. The seat’s curved wood frame and modern Scandinavian sensibility set the tone for Zalszupin’s prolific career. That same year he founded the L’Atelier, a carpentry firm that grew into one of Brazil’s largest furniture manufacturers.

Installation view, “Zalszupin 100.” Photo: Brica Wilcox, courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery.

Zalszupin thought creatively about materials and techniques. Early on he developed a signature patchwork rosewood pattern that allowed him to use leftovers from other productions. He would cover the surface of a piece of furniture with rectangular scraps of rosewood in various shades and patterns.

While Zalszupin is known for his use of native Brazilian woods like jacaranda, rosewood, and ironwood, he also researched and experimented with new machinery and technologies throughout his career, including his plastic laminate series. His innovative use of materials paved the way for the modernism movement that characterized Brazilian design in the decades to come.

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