Edge of the Seat: The Artist’s Chair

14 Mar–14 Jun 2014
Edge of the Seat: The Artist’s Chair is a group exhibition devoted to artistic responses to the chair, considering its symbolism in art and in life, alongside a newly commissioned text by writer Ali Smith. Below is an excerpt:

Take a seat, any seat. Now just sit there and think about what you’ve done. Chairs have been symbolic chimerae from the start. As well as being our most quotidian way of relaxing and disengaging, chairs signify everything from comfort to authority. They’re highly ceremonial. They’ve always been linked to religion, rank and officialdom. As Jimmie Durham, one of the artists here indicates, the word chair and the word cathedral share etymology, via Greek: kata (down) hedra (seat).

In this exhibition, the contact we make with all surfaces is tickled by Antony Gormley’s cheekily questioning and corrosive form. Phyllida Barlow, revealing the connective force between chair and easel, points out how everything believed known and understood can be smudged and persuaded into something else, simultaneously unveiling the form's relationship with time and deterioration, and with itself as art object.

Dorothy Cross’s Udder Chair reminds us how close chairs come to our most intimate physicality, and this intimacy, hot wired to notions of infancy and nourishment, makes a fusion of comfort and discomfort, attraction and repulsion. Uniting glass and wood, Adam Colton’s forms weigh fragilities and stabilities, fluidities and fixities; giving this same theme different legs, Jana Sterbak’s Dissolutionbrilliantly illustrates primal fear in a whole new way, forcing engagement, wittily and inexorably, with what structure is, with its inevitable natural loss and thereby all natural change and loss, for we depend on chairs not to melt under us.

In her practice Susan Collis makes visible, celebrates and elegises the inherent and so easily overlooked richness of the quotidian, while Martino Gamper practically instructs what we sit on to feed the imagination with endless possibility.

Wentworth’s multifarious chairs are a reminder of and a furthering of Plato’s original ideal/ real chair. If all the chairs can be held by the idea of chairness, then one single chair will hold the existence of multiple idea, reality, ideality.

Here’s an exhibition to make you sit up and take new notice.
—Ali Smith
Phyllida Barlow, Susan Collis, Adam Colton, Dorothy Cross, Jimmie Durham, Martino Gamper, Antony Gormley, Jana Sterbak, Richard Wentworth

Writing by
Ali Smith

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