U.S.A. - COLUMBIA-SOUTH CAROLINA - The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design


For millennia, humans have used chairs. The earliest surviving three-dimensional depiction of a chair is a clay model dating back to approximately 4750-4600 BCE. The oldest surviving chair is that of the ancient Egyptian princess, Sitamun, dating to approximately 1400 BCE.

In the 17th century, European immigrants to the New World brought furnishings with them, and used them as prototypes when they began producing domestically. It was not until the early-19th century that Americans began to manufacture chairs in a distinctly American style.

The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design is the first comprehensive exhibition of American chair design in the history of the Museum and serves as a complement and a contrast to the popular exhibition of international chair design — One Hundred Masterpieces from the Vitra Design Museum Collection — held in 1999.

Hailing from the Jacobsen Collection of American Art, the exhibition documents the rich and varied evolution of American design, illustrating the emergence of new technologies and materials, changes in consumer preferences, and social and cultural developments. Designed for function, each of these sculptural works possesses a unique story.

The earliest chairs in the exhibition, both dating to the fi rst half of the 19th century, are a diminutive Ladderback Doll's Chair and a similarly styled Rocking Arm Chair designed and made by a Shaker adherent for use in the religious community in New Lebanon, New York. Made of locally procured woods, the chairs refl ect a nascent American consciousness. The Founding Fathers encouraged the domestic manufacture of finely crafted goods using native materials and technologies as part of forging a national identity.

The 19th century was a period of rapid growth and profound change for the fledgling republic. In the decorative arts, particularly furniture, the classical infl uence of ancient Greece and Rome gradually gave way to revival styles of other eras, yet with a uniquely American aesthetic. These styles infl uenced the design and manufacture of seating furniture, which by this time was being made en mass in factories. These factories employed a variety of media and new technologies, such as steam-bent and laminated woods, which were further embellished with rich stains and exotic veneers.

Made by the American Chair Company in Troy, New York, the Centripetal Spring Arm Chair (c. 1850) perfectly illustrates the Rococo aesthetic popular at midcentury. The boldly sweeping curves of the cast iron legs and the pierced neck rest are mirrored in the rich, velvet gauffrage (embossed) upholstery that covers the back and seat. This chair was designed by Thomas E. Warren and patented by him on September 25, 1849; Warren adapted his patent the following year in designing chairs for passengers on railway cars. In both designs, the stationary seat and back assembly "float" above quadruped legs through the use of eight iron springs radially arrayed from the central support post. The Centripetal Spring Arm Chair can move laterally as well as vertically, through a subtle shift in weight of the sitter.

Fast forwarding 100 years, Charles and Ray Eames’ LCW (Lounge Chair Wood) (c. 1945) is similar to the Centripetal Arm Chair, principally in the use of laminated and molded woods. Hailed by Time magazine as the "Chair of the Century," the LCW was praised for its compact and lightweight design. This appealed to a postwar rising middle class and a subsequent Baby Boom generation, who were looking for inexpensive, yet stylish, furnishings. In contrast to the mass production of the LCW — which is still being produced today by the Herman Miller Furniture Company, a testament to its timeless design — Vivian Beer’s sinuous and sensuous chair, Current (2004), embodies the spirit of the American studio furniture movement, which peaked around 1960 but remains popular to this day. Its proponents favored the aesthetics of craft and the handmade over the machine and mass production.

Beer's work pushes the boundary between art and craft, between utilitarian object and sculptural work of art. "I wanted this chair to seem as if it had been cut and crushed out of a single sheet of metal," Beer said of Current. "At the same time I wanted it to feel as fast and clean as water in its silhouette with the power of an implied brutal forming in the background. The balance and the trickery are important."

Through the more than 40 chairs in the exhibition, visitors learn not only the unique history of each chair, but also how they refl ect the broader historic, social, economic, political and cultural context in which they were created. The Art of Seating was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Jacksonville and circulated by International Arts and Artists (IA&A) of Washington, D.C.

Columbia Museum of Art  28.04.2012 - 26.08.2012

Website & source :Columbia Museum of Art
Website : Columbia
FIC123.BE een website met info en cultuur.