Show Us Your Drawers
Through Aug. 6
When it comes to the thematically-driven group show, one person’s interpretation of an idea is necessarily different from another’s, ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime. Show Us Your Drawers, hosted by Herron Gallery and juried by The Furniture Society, which just held its national conference here, is all of this and more: a delightful example of what artists can do when given the germ of an idea, and the creative carte blanche to run with it.
This particular collection of works — 29 pieces of furniture inspired by the theme of drawers — is the third major juried exhibition produced by the society. The jurors, who deliberated over countless slides of drawer-containing or drawer-interpreting furniture, chose a full range of functional to (lovingly) dysfunctional art.
Who would possibly put his socks in a drawer that breathes? Or how about storing your underwear next to a cast resin dead bird? The former, “Breathing Drawers,” created by J. Peter Schlebecker of Camden, Maine, is a chest of just two drawers set high on legs resembling crutches. With a decidedly spare and somber Asian feel, the piece is instead of much airier intent: pull open the top drawer, push it back in, and its silicone rubber sides and top expand as the drawer inhales, like pristine lungs.
“Breathing Drawers” suggests a pair of cotton bloomers as much as it breathes life into a piece of furniture. Drawers, after all, are containers; they conceal, protect, preserve, accumulate and even eliminate if we forget what’s in them. The other kind of drawers, which the exhibition organizers had a great time playing up, are also containers of something precious, or at least important.
Herron invites us to touch, or rather, pull open these drawers to imagine what we might place inside. I imagined the keys, random buttons and earrings I might secure inside Philadelphia furniture maker Jack Larimore’s “River of Love … or Tears,” a small black chest with six-fingered hands reaching out as drawer pulls and foils to drawer pulls, the whole apparatus elevated atop a swirl of eight “oars.” Po Shun Leong of Winnetka, Calif., created “Small City with Hidden Drawer,” capricious and playful with a complex maze of stairs and windows and faux-architectural elements in miniature, and a surprisingly large drawer running through its base.
I couldn’t possibly leave out “Squeeze Box” by J. Speetjens of Greensboro, N.C. Pull open any of the five perfectly crafted drawers arcing between its T-shaped legs and hear a mournful tone. Open a few more and you’ll hear what sounds like a string quartet warming up.
Craftsmanship and artistry coming together is one thing, but add personality and imagination, and you have art. This exhibition is not diminished in any way by its plentiful puns, nor is it predictable. In a word, it’s a delight, from the first drawer to the last.
Show Us Your Drawers is on view through Aug. 6 at Herron Galleries, Herron School of Art & Design, 735 W. New York St.; 317-278-9418 or www.herron.iupui.edu