Saturday, January 21, 2012

Great Museum Seating

I recently visited the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to see Ellsworth Kelly's show of wood sculptures, however, in order to avoid getting thrown out of the museum for repeatedly violating their policy of no photography in the special exhibit, I wandered around the rest of the museum hoping that the security guards would rotate out -- which they did about every 45 minutes. In doing so, I saw a lot of great art, but what I was really excited to find were these world class benches and seats that the MFA had strategically placed in unassuming and surprising places.  The first that I stumbled across was this pair of Wendell Castle chairs in the ancient Asian art gallery.
Zephyr Chairs
Wendell Castle
What an absolute treat! I'd never had the opportunity to sit in a Castle chair and I can now attest that not only are the stunning to look at, they are also quite comfortable.

As I left this spot I made a point of keeping an eye out for more great seating and in a nearby room of Asian horse sculptures (and paintings?) I found this fantastic Judy Kensley McKie bench.

Pegasus Bench
mahagony and leather
Judy Kensley McKie
Though I couldn't find a label identifying the bench I think this is the correct title because it is how Edward Cooke referred to it his 2004 interview with Judy. As with many of her animal sculptures, Judy engages the viewer by designing these horses/pegasi with a little mystery. In looking at them, you can't be quite sure what they are at first, you need to look longer and think about it. It creates an appropriately mythical feel to the piece. Unfortunately, the bench engaged at least one visitor a bit too much given that one of the ears had to be reattached.

Then, not to far away, I think in a gallery of Greek sculpture, I came across this impeccably designed bench by Hank Gilpin.

curly maple and walnut
Hank Gilpin
The top is a very wild piece of curly maple with the cracks and splits left naturally unfilled or repaired.
Gilpin Bench (top view)
But from the bottom side you can see the remarkable quality of the design and execution. For example, note the gentle curve in the stretchers, the through tenons that are left slightly proud, the pins in the leg securing the tenon are also slightly proud, and, most interesting, look at how he helped to make the bench top look lighter, as if it is floating above the base, by creating a half-inch(?) gap above the legs and by also camferring the edge of the bench. In doing it, he has given a very light feel to a piece that is very solid in its construction. 
Gilpin Bench (underneath view)
Though I continued to look for more great seating during the rest of my visit, I didn't find any more. However, in checking the museums inventory, it looks like there is also a Maloof in another of their less visited galleries (although the MFA has graciously decided to invite the general public to use these great works of art from their permanent collection, I don't think they want them to be subject to the kind of abuse they would experience in their more popular galleries). I'll definitely keep an eye out next time I'm there and will update this list as I locate them.

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