Exhibition of Handmade Furniture

March 1, 2010



The work of some of the most prominent studio furniture makers in the United States will be shown in a group exhibition of handmade furniture from March 5 through March 27, 2010 at Gallery NAGA in Boston.

The show is being mounted as a benefit for the North Bennet Street School in Boston’s North End. One of the oldest and best-known crafts training schools in the country, the school is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. The school’s philanthropist founders began offering woodworking and cabinet making training programs in the 1880’s as a way for immigrants from Europe to begin earning a livelihood in their adopted country.

“For North Bennet: A Benefit Exhibition of Studio Furniture” will feature the work of 28 makers from across the country, including such established and highly collectible American furniture makers as Garry Knox Bennet, Hank Gilpin, Judy McKie, Jere Osgood, Tommy Simpson and Rosanne Somerson. The work of lesser-known but rising stars — Bart Niswonger and Ben Fleis among them — will also be included.

In an unprecedented gesture of financial support by a commercial gallery and its artists, half the purchase price of every exhibition piece sold will be donated to support the school’s crafts training programs.

The idea for the group show grew out of a series of conversations between Galley NAGA director Arthur Dion and the school’s president Miguel Gomez-Ibanez, himself an accomplished furniture maker, and whose work is included in the show.

Dion had long been aware of North Bennet Street School’s reputation as a training institution, and of its role in maintaining high standards in furniture making and cabinetry. He put a call out to furniture makers from past NAGA shows and to others producing similar, high-caliber work. The concept of a benefit show for the school was enthusiastically embraced.

The Gallery NAGA show is one of the highlights of the school’s yearlong celebration. “We’re deeply honored to be recognized by a gallery and a community of artists that share the school’s commitment to superb craftsmanship,” said Gomez-Ibanez.

The exhibition’s 27 objects — seating, tables, chests, cabinets and wall pieces — reflect current thinking about the very idea of “furniture” both as functional object and as art form. Some makers have drawn their inspiration from traditional styles and techniques; others bring a modern and, at times, whimsical viewpoint to their work.

A reverence for wood is apparent in the show, as one might expect. But there are the unexpected materials, too – plaster, graphite, polymer resin, limestone, steel and leather.

The show’s disparate work has a few things in common, however. The level of craftsmanship and professionalism is uniformly high. And, taken together, the work conveys an intriguing and valid snapshot of the current state of the studio furniture movement in America.

The show’s many sought-after and collectible artists include California furniture maker Garry Knox Bennett, best known for his chairs and use of conventional woods and unusual materials such as plywood, aluminum, steel, and plastics. His Nautilus Table with Shelf uses a thin slice of an actual nautilus shell set in epoxy as surface decoration.

Judy Kensley McKie’s work is infused with a lively awareness of modernist and contemporary art and also of the approaches to design to be found in indigenous cultures throughout the world. Her Bird Table’s flat top is the silhouette of an avian body and wings, with a head that rises quizzically.

Jon Brooks makes use of found materials from his house and the surrounding New Hampshire woods to create his playful furniture and sculpture. His Analtar Table III stands on nine undulating legs fashioned from found tree branches that are decorated with acrylic, pastel and colored pencil.

Rosanne Somerson adds gesture, caprice and mystery to classic furniture forms, transforming exotic woods into intimate and evocative functional objects. Her three legged Small Table with Leaves offers leaf-shaped surfaces of rift white oak and limestone.

Also in the show is the work of Dale Broholm, John Eric Byers, Mark Del Guidice, John Dunningan, Thomas Hucker, Silas Kopf, John Marcoux, Todd Partridge, Timothy Philbrick, Mitch Ryerson, James Schriber, Jay Stanger, J.M. Syron and Bonnie Bishoff, Tim Wells, Steve Whittlesey, Lothar Windels and Rick Wrigley.

Exhibition Facts:

Title: For North Bennet Street: A Benefit Exhibition of Studio Furniture
Where: Gallery NAGA, 67 Newbury Street, Boston MA
When: March 5 – 27, 2010. Tuesday – Saturday, 10am to 5pm

Format: A group exhibition of established and new makers of unique or limited-edition furniture including Garry Knox Bennett, Hank Gilpin, Judy Kensley McKie, Jere Osgood and 24 other furniture makers.

Proceeds: 50% of sales will be donated to support the North Bennet Street School’s furniture making, cabinetry and other crafts training programs.

Handicap Access: Yes
Parking: two pay lots opposite the gallery, plus metered street parking.
Nearest T stop: Arlington Street station (Green line)
More About Gallery NAGA: gallerynaga.com and 617-267-9060