The term 'live edge' has been used to describe wooden furniture with undimensioned edges. Famous examples of this sort of sophisticated rusticity date from before my time on this earth. I think I first noticed it in the work of George Nakashima. Being young and naive, and wanting to rebel against whatever I thought I needed to rebel against, I thought the idea of furniture that didn't quite appear to be furniture was cool. There's something compelling about a piece of contemporary livingroom furniture that still retains features of a raw log that appeals to an SUV driving professional, to a manly salaryman, and equally to an urbane hobbit.
|Challenging the limits of what a sawyer can do|
|The movers are gonna need a lot of bubblewrap for this item|
Like rooted giants themselves, these items are massive and made to convey permanence. None other than a Rockefeller was one of the first and most prominent collectors of Nakashima furniture. Not only could he afford to purchase a 200 piece lot of furniture on commission, his inheritance could equally afford the mansion to house them all. Equally, if one has the resources to rebuild a house lost to a fire exactly as it was built in the 1970s and the prestige to have it written about in the NYT, then the high cost of Nakashima is appropriate to one's social stratum. Even a single table merits a wistful essay in the paper of record. This is furniture beyond the price range of most everybody reading this weblog, and those in the club like it that way.
|Opulent rusticity for simple senatorial elites|
|Those aren't holes; they're artistic flourishes put there by nature|
|more base than tabletop|
|Color coordinated with the avocado Frigidaire|
I visited a hotelroom a few days ago to find an interior that seemed to be inspired by the paneled interiors of my youth. It was a challenge to take a photo without catching the reflective glare from the sheen.
Plastics are used to create a faux wood appearance. I grew up surrounded by this ubiquity and only learned with effort how the original paneling was intended to finish a room interior e.g. wainscotting, which it was putatively based upon. This plasticized ersatz wood is marketed primarilyto the working class. It can still be found in the best appointed doublewides. The upper classes, therefore, want nothing to do with it. A hotel designer can employ it to affect an easy to clean, modernist cachet, which can be ripped out and replaced cheaply when the management wants something new in short order.
Lastly, it is often convenient to flatter the upper class by downplaying their baser financial motives and instead highlighting the spiritual aspects of their investments. The artist and the dealers willingly go along with this pretense.
|The slab church missal|
In order to counteract this straightforward objective,
''His prices have gone up a lot. At the same time Los Angeles collectors are instructing their decorators to find Nakashimas, you see the best pieces at auction going to Swiss and German collectors and French dealers.'' said James Zemaitis.we must muddle through pithy platitudes about intangible qualities that only sufficiently degreed art historians and museum curators can typically compose.
In Nakashima's own words:
''We work this material to fulfill the yearning of nature to find destiny,'' he said, ''to give this absolute inanimate object a second life, to release its richness, its beauty, to read its history in life.''His own daughter, who, since her father's death, has taken over the Nakashima brand, offers a metaphysical salespitch:
From the same article lastly comes this more businesslike assessment:''Work for him was a spiritual calling, a linking of his strength to a transcendental force, a surrender to the divine, a form of prayer,'' his daughter, Mira Nakashima,...
Dead artists make for great investments. Get in while the getting is good, people! The time to buy is now.Mr. Aibel specializes in Art Deco antiques, but he has also been the premier dealer in vintage Nakashima furniture since 1985. ''By my estimate, George Nakashima made about 25,000 pieces in his lifetime,'' Mr. Aibel said. ''I've handled some 2,000 of them.'' Tomorrow evening he is the host of a book party for Ms. Nakashima.Nakashima's work will also be seen at Sanford Smith's antiques show, ''Modernism: A Century of Style and Design,'' which opens in Manhattan on Thursday (through Nov. 16). There will be several pieces in the Moderne Gallery booth, with prices from $7,500 to $35,000.
George Nakashima coffee table up 34% on estimate at SkinnerOver time the aesthetic sensibility of their betters has trickled down to the tastes of the masses, too, who are comforted by easily identifiable 'real wood'. I encountered some of this when I once suggested that milk painting was an appropriate surface covering for some student projects when I was still working at MYLab. To a man, the novice woodworkers wanted only to finish their projects with oil so that they could 'see' the wood. This phenomenon is also played out in Shaker revival furniture. The Shakers, a preplastic celibate cult, were quite happy to brightly paint their interiors and pine furniture. In the revival movement, however, the emphasis is on the clear finished pieces. The Windsor chair form has also experienced a revival but with the exception of a handful of craftsmen who make the furniture entirely by hand and apply milk paints accordingly, the commercially made items are often treated with a clear finish with mixed and jarring results.
|Real wood but not too much|
|Disunified but reassuringly 'real wood' for the masses|
Recently this emphasis on 'real wood' has gotten a boost from a woodworker who moonlights as a television actor in his spare time. Finally an entrepreneur has made Nakashimas for the working man's wallet.
|Offerman in the style of Nakashima|
|Patterned to deceive|
|Endgrain in plastic is still to be avoided|
The manufacturer had moved up to the next level, not only reproducing the figure of the wood, but also the texture from a coarse bandsawn blade. It's an homage to the Nakashima cult by intentionally making a table that is more difficult to wipe clean. But in melamine for the coffee swilling masses!
It is only a matter of time before the next step is to be achieved. I predict that we will shortly see more examples of this trend to recreate 'real wood' industrially using plastics in the manufacture of Nakashima style furniture. And so I wonder: what then will the upper classes turn to in order to fill out their palaces?
Are there possibly any others who share my blasphemous viewpoint?