Posted on December 9, 2010
The history of art is the DNA of Art. Nothing crawls from the evolutionary muck without first standing on the shoulders of a long ancestral line. And like any evolution, innovation and change happens at a pace so slow and incremental as to be hardly noticeable. Creating the truly innovative work requires stepping outside of natural selection and hacking into art's DNA, engineering the genes like a GMO. The more divergent the work, the more radical the splice.
To wit, two interpretations on baroque style antique chairs:
Georgian armchairs as imagined by London-based designers Clarke & Reilly (otherwise known as husband and wife team David Grocott and Bridget Dwyer). The chairs are covered in 19th century Mennonite petticoats. In bringing together divergent materials with their own histories, the designers have genetically spliced the chairs way beyond mere reupholstering. They have added not only value but dimension. Like the apple farmer who joins together two trees through grafting, enabling the tree to bear more fruit.
In this version, Dutch artist/designer Sebastian Brajkovic takes his inspiration from digital graphics. Unlike Clarke & Reilly, Brajkovic doesn't graft with pre-existing materials but creates his objects from scratch. This work, from his "Lathe Series," is designed with CAD and assembled by hand. The graphics on the upholstery are embroidered. The history Brajkovic seeks in his work is of a more surreal nature. Says he: "My decor is the dreamworld." A world that normally exists only in "the back of our heads."
Above, this version of Brajkovic's chair seems to be cleaved between two dimensions.
Clarke & Reilly's work, as with the above chair, is described as "chic utilitarian," "shabby chic," and simply "disheveled." To simply call it Adaptive Reuse would be to drain the work of all its poetry. And what about the designers themselves? They call it "unashamedly romantic and tirelessly imaginative." They travel the world with an eye acutely open for vintage, antique, and otherwise extraordinary pieces from which to begin; For David Grocott, it was an eye trained with 20 years experience in the antique industry, including running his own company, Plinth.
Like a vine crawling over a brick wall, an antique textile is layered over a vintage couch. The raw appearance is no accident. Rather than cover the essence of his pieces beneath upholstery Grocott prefers to let its historicity show through.Below, a bedroom outfitted with unpainted shutters and an antique wood-burning stove used as a kind of console/bureau.
Below, the Suitcase Chair from South African designer Katie Thompson.
Like the work above, Thompson goes beyond simply recycling objects or adapting them for reuse. In some of her work she also mashes-up narratives. For her Suitcase Chair she plays with the tension of two opposing narratives: In the suitcase we have the experience of travel and relocation with its attendant anxieties and misadventures as the yin. For the yang she intersects the first with the cozy comfort of home and hearth in the deep white linen cushions and turned legs.
Then, the white linen Ottoman Tub: The wash tub gets its own Cinderella story.
Below, a reupholstered vintage couch with embroidery: More use of the Suitcase Chair yin and yang tension. The DNA of home and homeostasis spliced with the chaotic flight pattern of a butterfly. Or something like that.
Le Courbusier revisted: The Theater of Cruelty take on the Swiss master by fellow countryman, interior architect and artist Stefan Zwicky. Manufactured from concrete and rebar the chair weighs in at a ton. The title: Domage a Corbu, grand confort, sans confort (1980)