When is a table not a table, or a bed not a bed?
Discomfort: Experiments in Furniture, Function and Form features objects that resemble furniture, but do not function as such. Instead, these sculptures blur the line between utility and uselessness and encourage viewers to look at common household objects in an entirely new light.
“When we own objects purely for their utility, there is a tendency to see past them,” said Liz K. Sheehan, curator of Discomfort. “Through a sense of discomfort that’s both literal – “I can’t sit on it” — and psychological – “I don’t understand it” – these sculptures prompt us to look anew at objects around us.”
This new Hunterdon Art Museum exhibition begins Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016 from 2 to 4 p.m. with an opening reception that everyone is welcome to attend. The show runs until May 8.
“There is a lot of ‘why?’ in this show, and that personally is what interests me: Work that presents a conceptual challenge while being simultaneously inviting and familiar,” Sheehan said.
Artists featured in this exhibition are: Greta Bank, Malcolm Bray, Duncan Hewitt, Adam J. Manley, V. Mitch McEwen, Duane Paluska, Colin Pezzano, Matthias Pliessnig, Celeste Roberge, Jill Slosburg-Ackerman, Caroline Woolard and Erwin Wurm.
The inclusion of the sculptures of Paluska and Pezzano offers visitors the opportunity to study contrasting styles. Paluska adopts traditional methods for non-traditional results, creating, for instance, chairs that are missing crucial elements, or a table that appears to have been taken apart and rejoined at an odd angle. Pezzano carves and steam-bends stack laminate, incorporating other materials and colorful, painted surfaces. The furniture he builds evokes humor and pathos, often suggesting human qualities and relationships.
“They are both trained in furniture making, but are taking it to different ends and with different techniques,” Sheehan said. “They are also both thoughtful about their position relative to art and craft.”
Sheehan said she hopes visitors leave the exhibition with a new respect for things that don’t fit into neat categories, a new understanding of the meaning of function and how subjective that idea can be.
“I hope they come away with a lot of questions, both about how we relate to objects physically, but also their relationship to each other, to architecture and to history,” she said. “That’s ambitious and idealistic, but hopefully there’s a shift in perception and expectations.”
Image Credit: Adam J. Manley, Staying Put (Rockland Light), 2015, digital print, courtesy of the artist.