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Indulgently mining some notion of Surrealism comes the current show at the Gallery of Functional Art.  This chattering bazaar of the obvious and unexpected herds together a potpourri of the local and the international.

I’m all for multilateralism, for invading the other guy’s territory, but the premise (if there is one) of this clutter both depends on and is defeated by professional categorizations.  Artists launching into furniture is certainly not new – the megaliths of the late Scott Burton and Fujie’s fan- like concoctions for Maki are exemplary.  But for Architects to attempt to manufacture furniture which is also Art seems to me to threaten an unholy menage-a-trois, sinking them into a semiotic quagmire.

The absence from the agenda of any mass-production strategy is less puzzling in this environment of the suburban objet trouve than even the hint of a shared manifesto.  What brings these artifacts together is not an attitude to culture but the chutzpah of the organizers.  Few of the offerings investigate the ordinary, improve our common lot.  Where, for example, would the French be without their Deux Chevaux or the Italians without those letti matrimoniali?

Wearing my Salone del Mobile hat – perhaps an orange baseball cap of the sort favored by Lars Lerup – it’s clear that many of these pieces have not, as the invitation implies, been created specially for the show.  Witness naughty Nigel’s cheeky stool – shame that the punters were barred from sitting on the thing!

Lerup’s own contribution is a hybrid of Adirondack and Rietveld depicted through a Lissitzky notation of the tadpole-to-Sapiens type.  The actual artifact seems less important than the graphic process but exudes that friendliness shared by all mongrels.

Lars’ pal Wolf steals the show with his Vitra Special Edition flying armchair – the traditional leather cube represented and flung out on an industrial blue I-beam.  The concept derives coherently from Himmelblau’s oeuvre but, as Corbu said of Manhattan, it should be much bigger – hurtling the sitter dynamically across the room.

Of the locals, Richard Lundquist’s beautiful tabletop could expand and fold in spatially more seductive ways, whereas Moss’s muscled frame of timber and metal awaits some unspecified ritual – the absence of a dissection perhaps.

Yes, it’s wonderful to have a forum for the exhibition of artifacts but, avoiding a Goldberger rap of “on the one hand it’s good, on the other hand it’s bad”, what annoys me about this caravanserai is its introspection, its whiff of wimpery, its inability to suggest beyond itself either into the economics of industrialization or the spiritual zones of High Art.

Instead, check out the alchemical boudoirs of Boris Sipek – steeped in the contexts of his native Bohemia; the politico-material propositions of Pesce; the Sydney surf culture of Marc Newson, coming soon to Di’zin; and inevitably all that stuff for the blond Everyman at the Case Study show.

Raymund Ryan

Back to February 1990 Newsletter