NEWS


L. A., Times, Thursday Oct. 9, 2003

 "PROGETTI ESTREMI,
by Tiziana Lorenzelli,
C.U.S.L.-MILANO, 2001"
 


THE NEW YORK TIMES
June 15, 2000, Thursday

House & Home/Style Desk
CURRENTS: LOS ANGELES --
DESIGN RESOURCES; This Way In (or Out)
By Frances Anderton

Ever wondered where interior designers and the house-proud in Los Angeles shop? At boutiques on La Brea and Beverly Boulevards and on Melrose Avenue (Skank World and Modernica, to name two), in the workrooms of furniture designers like Gregg Fleishman (above, outside his studio in Culver City) and at flea markets. That's the latest from Michael Webb, author of ''Architecture & Design LA'' (The Understanding Business, $14), whose third edition is subtitled ''Selective Guide to the Best Buildings, Interiors, Design Resources and Arts Facilities in Southern California.'' What is ''out,'' Mr. Webb? Most showrooms at the Pacific Design Center (though Knoll, Snaidero and Dakota Jackson make the cut) and chain stores like Ikea. The 88-page guidebook's design and building supplies source list is a useful addition to an opinionated tour of the best architecture in Los Angeles; (510) 649-3730


Design meets art in Gregg Fleishman's work, and decidedly in that
order. Presenting these collapsable chairs in a gallery
environment, rather than a design showroom, gives us license to
consider first their visual properties then their structural
aspects.

What has earned the chairs their notoreity is that their seeming
flimsiness and lowbrow plywood material are an illusion. The
plywood is actually a high quality birchwood product of Finland.
The squiggly lines that you settle onto allow for a comfortable give
that threatens neither to break nor tip over. When we think of a
chair we expect clear planes of material that clarify that there is
a volume of space able to provide unyielding support when
occupied. Lots of light and air playing through volumes that
constantly break open do not, at first, inspire confidence. So the
true believers who use the products become insiders to a good
natured conspiracy. The joke is on the outsider who sees but
doesn't get it, who could sit with comfort but dares not. But wait,
the clever joke extends further still.

Think about how a well appointed room will include both fine
furniture and fine art. As we all know in the art world, fine art
stands on its own; taking room decor into account runs counter to
the ethos of art.

But what if the furniture IS the art? I don't mean the way, for
example, Sam Maloof is able to bring just the right shape and
curve to an exquisitely formed rocking chair. I mean, what if you
can take the chair that sits out there in the room and hang it right
up on the wall? And it never occurs to your guests that what they
are looking at is a chair at all. . .

That's what this show is about. It includes you in on part of the
joke even if you never get around to taking a seat.

Since Fleishman's chairs are built out of flat sheets of wood--the
component parts are screwed and latched together to result in the
functional object--they may always be returned to the flatness of,
well, a picture plane. No tools needed. See that nice picture next to
the Alicia chair? Turns out that's another Alicia chair. Ready
for storage. Or display.

The playfulness of what these pictures look like is in sync with the
playful illusion that belies the chairs' ability to function as
chairs. Lumberest has the appearance of an oversized cockroach.
Six skinny little legs support a tank-like body. The charming
monster even sports a pair of antenna. The back and seat support
elements that make up the creature's innards evoke a diagram of
internal organs and intestines. The machine-honed precision of the
details, however, make the overall effect more cool than yuk.

The organic character of the chairs as images may or may not be
fortuitous, but it does come up again and again. Surround conveys
the functional shapes of the chair, but the beak and finger-like
hooks at the tips of the slightly curved slats, together with the hot
yellow monochrome, set the whole on fire. Leg supports at either
lower corner, and the lines cut into the circular seat area readily
morph into a smiling bust signaling thumbs up. It's all very
affirmative, and quite loopy. Go back to Alicia now and you can
see the big-eyed kid with an afro staring back.

Once we get past the intital skepticism--Do these chairs really work?
Can I take an image seriously that is, uh, a folded chair?
--Fleishman really just wants us to be able to get comfy and have
some fun. It's slick stuff and tricky to pull off, but what makes the
visit worthwhile is that it doesn't get all pretentious or start lecturing us
about Art.

By Bill Lazarow BACK TO BIOGRAPHY
OR SEE www.robertbermangallery.com