Incorporating elements of drawing, sculpture, and architecture into his practice, Serban Ionescu is known for boldly-colored, playful, anthropomorphic forms that blur the boundaries between the sculptural and functional. Born in Communist Romania in 1984, Ionescu moved to New York at the age of 10. In talking about his childhood, he recalls being overwhelmed by the color and abundance of his adopted country. Ionescu has also spoken about how drawing enabled him to communicate as a child before he was able to speak English. Today, these early memories and influences are clearly manifest in Ionescu’s creative explorations and in his use of vibrant color and range of scale.
Ionescu’s designs are informed by a strong background in the field of architecture. He received his Bachelor of Architecture from the Pratt Institute in 2007 and additionally taught at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s School of Architecture for six years. Much of Ionescu’s work originates from fluid, free-form drawings, which he then translates into three dimensions through a masterful use of digital-cutting technologies. Using CNC waterjets and plasma cutters, Ionescu replicates the raw and loose quality of his drawings in steel, creating a striking and dynamic contrast between the freedom of his line and the sharpness of his chosen material. The precision of the machine-cutting allows Ionescu’s imaginative, sometimes cartoon-like illustrations to be faithfully rendered in 3D—almost as if his sketchbook has come to life.
Ionescu’s interest in the notion of world-making is especially pronounced in his enterable pavilions. Building on the success of Chapel for an Apple (2020)—an outdoor, 20-foot tall, architectural folly-like pavilion, in Hudson, NY—Ionescu has been creating spaces that can be experienced from within and can be positioned indoors or outdoors. The centerpiece of his recent solo exhibition Castle Garden is the 22 feet tall Tower for an Hour. The work is an example of one such commission for a New York City home. Drawing directly from the designer’s background in architecture, these pavilions originate as sketches which Ionescu then transforms into meticulous models that collectors can commission to be made real-size for a range of environments. Offering spaces for reflection, rest, or play, these pavilions invite us to question the built environment, the interplay between interior and exterior spaces, the relationship between architecture and design, and the confluence of experience and function.
Ionescu’s work has been published in the New York Times and Dwell Magazine, among other notable publications. He has been featured in five solo exhibitions in New York, including a 2022 solo exhibition at R & Company titled Castle Garden, in addition to several group shows.
A Thing On A Table In A House is the first book on the designer’s work, published by Apartamento. The book surveys the last five years of the artist’s colorful steel works and is accompanied by a play written by the artist James English Leary.