BUT CAN YOU SIT ON IT?
An exhibition of capricious furniture by: Michael Lewis Miller, David Perry, Fred Rose and Norm Tornheim
El Camino College is delighted to present the work of four Southern California artists
in an exhibition of non-utilitarian furniture, BUT CAN YOU SIT ON IT? While furniture is conventionally defined to be moveable things like tables, chairs
and sofas that are used to make a house or building a comfortable place to live, each
of the artists in this exhibit has his own reasons for choosing the medium of furniture
instead, as a unique vehicle for expression, not comfort.
Born in Alleghany County, Virginia, Michael L. Miller was steeped in the folklore and esthetic of the Appalachian culture where importance is given to farming, carpentry, furniture building, story telling and the sharing of food. When he departed from this region he yearned for the values of the Appalachian culture. As time passed Miller became aware of his own quirks and losses and began developing a long series of performative works titled the Psychophysical Prosthetic Wardrobe. These wooden cabinets and carts incorporate not only the spirit and esthetic of his home ground of Virginia but also contain a sense of sorrow and humor at his own human struggles.
The work of David Perry demonstrates a thorough knowledge of the history of furniture design, which he imitates and torques resulting in a body of work that is simultaneously terribly funny and thought provoking. Through the use of familiar stylistic forms Perry creates furniture works that evoke specific time periods while poking fun at the association and denying the viewer the ease of collapsing into an impossibly fragile or intentionally unbalanced chair. His materials range from wood and paper fiber to steel and wool fabric.
Fred Rose revels in wood working from the milling of wood taken down in urban forests of Southern California and the practical discipline of woodworking, to the folklore related to wood and more than superficial knowledge of the botanical life of trees. His work sometimes references specific periods of history, sometimes philosophic trends. His work in this exhibition include a large installation piece with gridded wood screen and attached furniture parts, referencing a complex combination of Shoji, Gothic tracery, Rococo cartouche and a sash window. The screens are accompanied by oval frames containing carvings and images related to trees and wooden furniture. Rose also exhibits a wooden wheeled chair and various wooden stump tables with biologically anomalous tree parts.
The furniture works of Norm Tornheim sometimes resemble vehicles, sometimes fetish objects, but always are elegant, elongated examples of an esthetic driven by fascination with unusual materials and a highly developed sense of design. Tornheim’s chairs are loosely based on the ancient concept of the chair or throne as the center of power. These polished works that deftly combine natural materials and industrial parts are intended to “challenge and examine the symbolic associations with the performative act of sitting”. (N. Tornheim) While some of these chairs may ultimately be capable of holding the body weight of a human being, that is not the intent within this context.
Norm Tornheim; And There It Was;
Wood, Antler and Steel; 36” x 15” x 12”