Arts preview: The Modern Table presents design as an art form

  • Photos courtesy of Ohio Arts
By Columbus Alive
From the November 7, 2013 edition

When most people think about art they don’t think about furniture. They’d be right; it’s design. The exhibit “The Modern Table: Ohio Furniture Designers” has artistic elements, but its focus is design.

“When we talk about design versus art, art is something someone creates for a more altruistic reason,” said Tim Friar, curator of the exhibit. “With design, [it’s created] with some aesthetic value in place, but … really it’s another set of circumstances.”

Friar, owner of modern furniture boutique Grid Furnishings, said design goals are abundant; creating the ideal product for a user/consumer, manufacturer, target market or even fiscal objectives. Hence, a requirement for all pieces in “The Modern Table” was to be in some phase of production. The pieces on display are one-of-a-kinds, but the design will be replicated to create product lines.

A prime example is the two desks from Sean Sowers. The original is a beautiful walnut piece that’s nearly 10 times the cost of the production version. Both will be side-by-side at the exhibit.

“They’re all generally pieces that could be mass or semi-mass produced, which is different from what you traditionally think of art,” Friar said.

It’s a good thing this furniture has mass-produced potential, because it’s stuff you may want to own. The pieces — all designed as complements to the table, or variations of a traditional table; there are no dining tables — are stunningly appealing and downright cool. The goal is to get Columbus thinking about modern furniture design, and hopefully embrace it.

“[It’s about] creating a conversation for sure. Whether they’re attracted to it or not, I don’t think that’s the goal,” Friar said. “It’s the combination of exposing this idea of modern, the idea of furniture as design and an art form, and mixing those together.”

The designers are a mixture as well. The exhibit represents the work of 13 product or industrial designers, three fine artists, three furniture makers, one architect, two engineers and four with varied backgrounds.

The constant is the application of materials and examining — or transforming — the materials’ essence, reminiscent of the process used in the Bauhaus. The ideas and concepts developed out of the Bauhaus to the mid-20th century are the foundation of modern furniture design.

The result is a collection of pieces using a specific approach to produce different outcomes. The exhibit has a variety of tables (coffee, end, side), chairs and desks. There is even a credenza, titled “Facecord,” from Mark Moskovitz that looks like a pile of wood — literally. The piece has toured the country for museum shows and been featured in The New York Times.