The chair is the perfect blank canvas for designers: a simple form with a rich history that can be endlessly reinvented. The most successful chair designs have a way of bridging the personal and the universal, the contemporary with the historical.
Over the years we've seen a plethora of exhibitions and books dedicated to the ubiquitous form, but we were still surprised by much of what we saw at The Future Perfect's current show, simply titled "The Chair". The gallery sought to explore the age-old design challenge by asking a range of artists, industrial designers, ceramicists, sculptors and interior designers to offer their take. "We asked each artist to create a single one-of-a-kind chair that embodies who they are as an artist and maker," said Laura Young, Future Perfect's gallery director. "The results are overwhelming and extremely personal."
The gallery received 133 submissions and whittled the group down to 50. Ranging from functional pieces to purely sculptural creations, each chair tells its own story. Arranged in the gallery like "a river of chairs floating through space," the roster of designers in the show includes Bec Brittain, Charlap Hyman & Herrero, Chen Chen & Kai Williams, Chris Wolston, David Weeks, Fernando Mastrangelo, Kelly Behun, Kelly Wearstler, Martino Gamper, Trueing, Piet Hein Eek, and Tanya Aguiniga, among many others.
Below, we rounded up our 12 favorites from the show.
Jorge Penadés' entry is a chair from his "Look Mum no UV!" series and explores non-conventional glass connections. The chair is constructed without glue or binding agents. Chris Wolston's humanoid Nalgona chair is a whimsical take on the wicker chair.
Inspired by an ancient Roman stone chair, Eric Roinestad's C01 ceramic chair is hand thrown and features a caned seat for comfort.
Several of the chairs in the exhibition draw inspiration from ancient forms. Giancarlo Valle looked to Meso-American cultures when designing his Stump armchair, which juxtaposes soft mohair-upholstered elements with hard brass.
Trueing's Lescaze chair is named after William Lescaze, the architect who introduced glass brick to the United States in 1934 with his renovation of a townhouse at East 48th Street. Trueing uses the material as a structural and light-filtering element in the chair's base.
Tanya Aguiñiga's Acapulcx chair is an homage to the Mexican Acapulco chair and an experiment in the way that tensioned elements can provide an alternative to solid surfaces.
Known for her acclaimed pottery studio BZippy & Co, Bari Ziperstein's Tube chair is made of extruded clay tubes. It became the starting point for a forthcoming furniture collection that Ziperstein is working on for Future Perfect, which will include planters and tables that continue the tube theme.
Bower Studio's green marble and bronze Melt chair explores "the contrast between the true properties of material vs. perceived properties shaped by form."
Vonnegut Kraft's Mesa chair is part of a larger collection exploring scale, modularity, and the materiality of wood. The rounded forms are meant to create a "softer, naturalistic brutalism."
Bec Brittain's untitled entry is comprised of a tie-dye down-filled cushion draped over an aluminum structure and held in place with cords. The designer says it's "a subtle hint of how we often create ad-hoc adaptations to the objects around us in order to make them more interesting."
Sam Stewart's Lawn & Tennis chair nods to the country club aesthetic as much as it does the Wiener Werkstätte.
Serban Ionescu thinks of chairs as characters or pets in a room and his Gene Wilder chair—an homage to the late actor—is the latest addition to his cast.
The Chair will be on view at The Future Perfect through June 1, 2019.