Posted on 4/5/2013 9:03 AM by Grace Jeffers

A new exhibition at the Museum of Art and Design (MAD) highlights the most cutting-edge conceptual and technical trends in woodworking today.

The Museum of Art and Design in New York is renowned for exhibitions that stand at the cusp of art, craft and design.  Against the Grain may use one of man’s most ancient materials, wood, but experience is anything but expected. Even for those of us who frequent the best furniture fairs and art galleries there are pieces here, which delight and surprise.


Gary Carsley, 100 Wave Hill (Tree Struck By Lightning), 2012, Courtesy of Thatcher Projects, New York Photo: Courtesy of Thatcher Projects, New York

Curator Lowery Stokes Sims artists, designers, and craftspeople have incorporated post-modernist approaches and strategies into woodworking—deconstructing vessel shapes, playing on the relationship between function and form, and utilizing woodturning and furniture techniques in the creation of sculpture. The works, most of which have been created since 2000, challenge traditional applications of wood within the design and craft worlds, and exemplify the wide-ranging, frequently unexpected, approaches to the medium by contemporary artists and designers.


Jeroen Verhoeven, Cinderella Table

The aptly named Cinderella Table by Jeroen Verhoeven is a masterpiece of fluid forms. The piece magically morphs from the silhouette of an eighteenth century commode into the profile of an eighteenth century console. Many contemporary pieces marry two furniture forms but none other captures the transformation in such a delightful way. The dimensionality and fluidity of the entire piece literally defines the adage that woodworking should respect the grain of the material. This, and the overall resonance of the piece, makes the Cinderella table perhaps the finest example of what is possible today using both computer aided design programs and CNC routing.

Yuya Ushida, Sofa_XXXX, 2012; bamboo, stainless steel

Yuya Ushida’s SOFA_XXXX functions like an accordion in that it can contract and expand. The piece is an ingenious construction made entirely of chopsticks. Ushida was trained as a mechanical engineer and his fascination with bridges and structures such as the Eiffel tower are clearly evident.


Pablo Reinoso, Two for Tango, Fontainebleau Suite, 2012; wood

Bentwood is a perennial favorite and several pieces demonstrate the joyous expression of bent wood pushed to unprecedented heights.  The expressive draping between two frames in Pablo Reinoso Two for Tango Fontainebleau Suite looks more like hanging pasta than woodworking.


Matthias Pleissnig, Thonet No. 18, 2007; Thonet chair, steam bent white oak

The title suggests an homage to the original manufacture of bentwood furniture, but Matthias Pliessnig’s Thonet No. 18, is bent wood gone mad. Strips are twisted as if by some force of nature and not a human hand.

Mark Moskovitz, Facecord dresser

Firewood is commonly sold in volumes referred to as cords. A full cord measures four feet high by four feet wide by eight feet long and a face cord represents about a third of that volume. Mark Moskovitz brings the delight of neatly stacked pile of firewood indoors with this lighthearted dresser, aptly titled Facecord chest.