Everyday designs often bear inadvertent traces of the beliefs and values of the people who produced them. But sometimes, it’s hard to look critically at the things we interact with every day. Several artists are creating works at the intersection of furniture and sculpture. Working within a lineage that includes Donald Judd, Mona Hatoum, Kaari Upson, and Scott Burton, today’s artists prompt viewers to train their curious gaze on familiar objects. Some of their works are semi-functional, while others aren’t meant to be touched—let alone used—and nearly all are one-of-a-kind. All in all, these works might be described as furniture about furniture.
Oren Pinhassi: Toothbrush Tree (Wall Mount London), 2020, steel, plaster, burlap, sand, pigment and toothbrushes, 38⅕ by 16⅞ by 5⅞ inches.
Pinhassi’s sculptures usually incorporate or emulate domestic objects that are only sometimes recognizable. He’s interested in the boundaries we create to separate ourselves from the Other. Recent works have involved clear shower curtains, which have since become one of his signature motifs. He’s used them to highlight how our desires for separation are often mixed up with a longing to connect. For a recent show at Helena Anrather gallery in New York, the Tel Aviv–born artist filled plastic furniture covers with sand to create modular floor seating. Other works, like Toothbrush Tree (2020), a three-foot-high leafy structure that holds a dozen or so toothbrushes, are technically practical—and a bit absurd.
Dozie Kanu: Headboard Trial, 2021, found headboard, nails, oil paint, acrylic, found paper, colored pencil and marker on paper, steel, glue, found azurite stones, 29½ by 52¾ inches.
The Houston-born artist deliberately muddles distinctions between sculpture and design in an effort to highlight the ways that Black vernacular styles—such those seen in slab culture and African wax print fabrics—have historically been excluded from the category of fine art. Kanu isn’t attempting to “elevate” everyday artistry found in African diasporic making, however. Instead, he refuses distinctions altogether in unexpected material mashups that are easy to miss at first glance. Recent works have fused chairs with chrome hubcap bases or repurposed headboards as paintings.
View of Tamara Henderson’s 2018 exhibition “Womb Life” at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, showing Language of Mud, 2018.
The Canadian artist begins her sketches for sculptural furniture works after undergoing hypnosis. Following the experience, she finds herself able to marry busy patterns and loud colors with surprising cohesion. A similar aesthetic carries over into her work in film and painting, and often her exhibitions combine sculptural seating, paintings, and projections inspired by dream logic. Henderson will participate in the next Bienal de São Paulo, which is due to open on September 4.
Katie Stout, Abraham, 2021, ceramic, bronze,glass, gold luster, 29 by 15 by 9 inches.
In her sculptures, Stout pokes fun at furniture forms in order to probe the lifestyles of suburbanites, especially as evinced by the domestic interiors they inhabit. The Maine-born artist and designer is best known for her ceramic lamps with female bodies as bases. More recently, she’s been working on a series known as “Stuffed Chairs,” in which transparent coverings bind swaths of colorful fabrics to seating armatures.
Ann Greene Kelly
Ann Greene Kelly, Untitled, 2020, plastic chairs, tire, wire, hardware, plaster, colored pencil, fabric and aluminum, 40 by 68 by 71 inches.
The Los Angeles–based artist renders familiar objects uncanny by recreating them in unexpected materials like plaster or stone. By shifting the scale of chairs, tires, and mattresses, or smooshing several together to create a new form, she strips them of their function. Kelly will be included in the next New Museum Triennial, “Soft Water Hard Stone,” opening October 28 in New York.