Wood Expressions: MAD Museum Features Works by Black Artists

NEW YORK—“Against the Grain,” the current exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design, explores the endless possibilities of wood in art, craft and design and features works by 57 creative practitioners. The group includes several black artists from around the world, Betye Saar (Los Angeles), Barthelemy Toguo (Cameroon), Cuban-born Alexandre Arrechea (Spain) and Martin Puryear (Hudson Valley, NY), among them. Their contributions demonstrate innovate use of materials, texture and political expression. Puryear, who is known for his wood work and precise craftsmanship and design, is exhibiting “a furniture-based work for the first time,” according the museum.

“Against the Grain: Wood in Contemporary Art, Craft and Design,” is on view from March 19 to Sept. 15, 2013.

View more works from the exhibit here and here.

All photos © Arts Observer

Installation view of “A Skeuomorphic Wing Chair,” 2012 (staved and carved pine with maple legs) by Martin Puryear, at center (with “Thonet No. 18,” 2007 (Thonet chair, steam-bent white oak) by Matthias Pliessnig, at left).

“A Skeuomorphic Wing Chair,” 2012 (staved and carved pine with maple legs) by Martin Puryear of Hudson, NY.

Puryear made this work for the “Against the Grain” exhibit. According to the museum, the title “indicates that this is a ‘skeuomoph’—an object that is derived from an original one that retains the design elements that are essential to the identity of the original object. In other words, this wing chair is not a wing chair.”

Installation view of “Number 146” and “Number 152” by Leonardo Drew hung in background at right (with works by Bud Latven, in foreground).

View video of Leonardo Drew discussing his work.

“Number 152,” 2011 (wood, paint, screws, plastic) by Leonardo Drew of the United States.

At left, from top, “Who is the true terrorist?,” 2005 (stamping, ink on paper) and “Who is the true terrorist?,” 2001 (oak) both by Cameroon-born Barthelemy Toguo, who lives and works in France, Germany and Cameroon (with “Your Best Kitchen Mate! Knife Block,” 2004 (limewood) by Maarten Baas, at right).

“Malcolm’s Chicken 1,” 2002 (styrofoam, matches, brooms, wax, marbles) by Willie Cole of the United States.

Willie Cole‘s “plump fowl” refers to Malcolm X’s comment about “chickens coming home to roost” when asked about President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Elijah Muhammad, the leader and founder of the Nation of Islam, did not approve of the remark which led to Malcolm leaving the nation, embracing orthodox Islam and adopting a more global and racial-diverse view of the rights struggle. According the the museum, “What Cole has done here is to create a visual pun that captures the incendiary nature of the situation and creates a surreal union of disparate elements.”

“Coffin (Flag Box),” 2008 (wood construction box with printed tape, CD player, speakers, metal handles, casters, vinyl grills, electrical cord, book, wood stack) by William Pope.L of the United States.

“Herstory,” 2005 (mixed-media assemblage on vintage wood table) by Betye Saar of Los Angeles. In background, Detail of “Conspiracy,” 2007 (wood, Formica) by Alexandre Arrechea.

View video of Cuban-born Alexandre Arrechea (Spain) discussing his practice.

Martin Puryear‘s “A Skeuomorphic Wing Chair” (viewed through “615-2356,” 2007 (plywood, existing architecture) by Sara Oppenheimer).

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