Designer Chris Schanck’s work embraces the tension between dilapidation and opulence, asking us to find unconventional beauty in the imperfect.
Schanck was born in Pittsburgh in 1975 and grew up in Dallas. He received a Bachelor’s of Fine Art degree in sculpture from the School of Visual Arts and a Master’s of Fine Arts degree in design from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Upon graduating in 2011, Schanck founded a studio in Detroit employing over a dozen artists, students, and craftspeople. Based in a former factory in Banglatown, a neighborhood with a dense immigrant population, the local community plays a key role in Schanck’s egalitarian studio practice, which brings outsiders into design culture.
Schanck’s efforts deviate from the mass-produced, instead reviving mundane materials by transforming them into unique objects of uncommon luxury. Schanck is best known for his ongoing Alufoil series, in which industrial and discarded materials are sculpted, covered in aluminum foil, and then sealed with resin.
Despite overt references to fantasy and meta-fiction, Schanck’s assemblages are grounded in the reality of humanity’s neglect, necessity, and inventiveness with a vernacular imparted from his neighborhood of Detroit.
“My works exist on a spectrum, on the one end they are practical and functional, and on the other they are aspirational and speculative–a blend of reality and fantasy. Imagine a child’s bed that is shaped like a rocket or automobile. The practical function of that bed takes the form of a fantasy. We understand that you can’t start the bed and fly away, but in the child it inspires the idea of speed and exploration. My work functions a lot like that bed,” says Schanck.
The Dallas Museum of Art commissioned Schanck to create a work in dialogue with a late-19th century Martelé dressing table in their collection, which debuted in his first solo museum exhibition in January 2021. The Museum of Arts and Design, New York presented his first retrospective exhibition in February 2022. Schanck’s work is held in the collections of the Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI, Dallas Museum of Art, TX, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, TX, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada.
Schanck lives and works in Detroit, MI.