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Norman Kelley
Volume Gallery, Chicago, Illinois
Recommendation by Robin Dluzen

Norman Kelley, "Rod-back Side Chair, Boston, 1815," refabricated Windsor chair, 33½ x 20 x 20¼".

Continuing through January 24, 2014

In “Wrong Chairs” the Chicago and New York-based design collaborative, Norman Kelley (NK), presents a challenge to one of the most enduring of American design styles: Windsor furniture. After extensive research, NK tapped traditionally trained, Ohio-based craftsman to fabricate their designs. While they retain authentic Windsor hallmarks, like pressure fitted joints and impeccably curved arms and backs, NK’s “Wrong Chairs” undermine some of the fundamental features of functional furniture design. Uncomfortable, illogical and asymmetrical, NK’s chairs are indeed “wrong,” though they are by no means broken.

“Two-place Low-back Settee” features crisscrossing legs and a seat with a sharp, unpleasant-looking rift right in its center. “Continuous-bow High Chair” looks downright dangerous, with the spokes of its back poking up freely like spikes from the seat. Light, unfinished wood distances NK’s pieces from the antiquity of their stylistic origins, while also highlighting the penciled measurements and notations that prove the stylistic subversions of these “Wrong Chairs” are no mistake. With these pieces, Norman Kelley reminds us that invention is not necessarily about improving functionality, but finding new space for creation and dialogue.

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