Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jenna Goldberg's "Wallflower" at Gallery NAGA

With the Furniture Society's annual conference being in Boston June 17-19, I made a special trip to the big city in order to see the furniture displays that were part of the conference as well as those in venues coordinated with the event. I'm going to be busy writing blog posts over the next few weeks about what I saw.

This first one is on Jenna Goldberg's show of new studio furniture, Wallflower, at Gallery NAGA. Though the show was planned long before the conference, the overlap was fortunate and the gallery was kind enough to hold a reception on Thursday night so attendees could check it out. Three years in the making, the show is a stunning combination of Japanese influences. The furniture forms are subtle backdrops to the dynamic surface work but also clearly derivative (note: this is a non-pejorative use of the word) of Asian design while the intricately painted and carved surfaces that are inspired by kimono and obi (i.e., a kimono sash) patterns.

On entering the gallery I was surprised to find a couple of stand alone wall pieces. As it turns out, they can have a functional purpose, being sized as headboards for queen size beds, however Jenna also told me that these are an initial attempt to test the waters for creating non-functional wall art. As a big fan of non-functionality, they are my favorite pieces. I also like the use of gold and silver leaf in this first piece. It gives it a shimmer that really is reminiscent of the Japanese textiles that inspired the work.

Red Dahlia Headboard
36" x 66" x 2"

Arabesque Headboard
48" x 68" x 2"

The title of the show is likely intended as a pun. The work is obviously full of flower motifs and much of the work hangs on the wall, however, Jenna also describes herself in the catalog as shy and reserved, a bit of a wallflower herself. There is also a large amount of irony in the sense of the term "wallflower" contrasting with the exuberance and intensity of the show.

Jenna used basswood as a canvas for her paintings because of its ease in carving and the light, consistent color. It allowed her to add texture and contrast to the paint that is real unique. Though I've seen painters carve into their paintings to add texture and reveal underlying color, I don't think I've seen anyone use their canvas as part of the painting in this way.
Bush Clover Cabinet
38" x 22" x 14"

Here are a couple of close-ups.

Bush Clover Cabinet close-up

Winter Harvest Cabinet close-up

The cabinets are also intricately painted on the inside as well, though not carved, creating a surprise when they are opened.
Chrysanthemum Cabinet
38" x 22" x 14"

The work is uncompromising in its ambition and execution; from design, to construction, to painting, then carving -- Jenna hasn't skimped or looked for an easy way to completion. Each step has been laborious but the result is both spectacular and daring. Being that the last step is carving the elaborate designs, I imagine there might have been a bit of trepidation in taking her gouge (a chisel designed for scooping) to a finished painting, however, her cuts are confident and clean.

Autumn Lotus Cabinet
38" x 22" x 14"

It is really intense work. The number of carved lines and the level of concentration and patience it takes to realize are exhausting to think about, let alone accomplish.

Dahlia Cabinet
76" x 33" x 19"

Asterisk Cabinet
75" x 49" x 17"

The show also include a few small tables.
Mountain Flower Tables
20" x 26" x 20"

Kabloom Tables
21" x 26" x 20"

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