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Five Chair & Ten Tables

Conceptual artist Roy McMakin's funny furniture gets a hometown show

by Tim Yu in Culture on 11 November 2010

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Roy McMakin's furniture designs aren't the first to take on conventional assumptions about the distinctions between art and objects. As a trained architect, it's not surprising that the interdisciplinary artist's skillful manipulation of details rivals that of a legend like Ettore Sottsass. But where Sottsass used his painstakingly deliberate compositions to playfully reinvent ideas about what furniture can be, McMakin's studied work makes wry observations about what furniture is. As the press release for his current show "Five Chairs & Ten Tables" puts it, McMakin's absurdist work "emphasize[s] the sculptural quality of utilitarian objects, resulting in works both awkward and irreverent, exuding a presence simultaneously monastic and mischievous."

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This new exhibit sees the Seattle-based artist (he was born in the rural town of Lander, Wyoming) showing in his adopted city at Ambach & Rice. With an installation that consists of a series of furniture mismatched in shape and appearing slightly unfinished or off—cushions are askew, tabletops pitch too far over their pedestals—the work introduces a tension between notions of art and commerce. Here, the chairs and tables perform as "actors suspicious of the role in which they were cast."

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For more of McMakin's explorations of emotion, scale, craft and function to explore how objects contain meaning, see Rizzoli's retrospective book "When Is A Chair Not A Chair," which includes almost all of his prolific output over the past 25 years. As McMakin explains it, "I see the job of an artist as that of a philosopher of visual experience."

"Five Chairs & Ten Tables" is currently on view through 5 December 2010 at Ambach & Rice. See more images of the exhibit in the gallery below.

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