Exhibition explores the gray area between object and concept, 'If a tree falls in the forest, is it a chair?'

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Exhibition explores the gray area between object and concept, 'If a tree falls in the forest, is it a chair?'
John Niero of Just Not Normal, J-low Chaise and Table/Ottoman, 2007, fiberglass prototype. Photo credit: Charles Impstepf.

CLAREMONT, CA.- The Claremont Lewis Museum of Art exhibition 'This is not a chair.' presents a broad range of artists and approaches to the icon of human creative production that is the chair. Drawing inspiration from Rene Magritte’s painting The Treachery of Images which placed the statement “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” (This is not a pipe.) under a painted representation of a pipe, This is not a chair. similarly explores the gray area between object and concept, language and meaning.

This liminal space has provided fertile ground for artists to explore and challenge the framework for concept development. Through their experimentations, language’s illusion of stability starts to look like a two-legged stool. The exhibition begs the question: What is a chair?

The exhibition, curated by CLMA’s Associate Director of Exhibitions and Collections Seth Pringle, includes a wide range of interpretations, from the 1960s to the present, of what it means to be a chair. A chair can be something you sit on, or a representation of such a functional object. But it can also be so much more: a repository of cultural narrative, a catalyst for social interaction or a conceptual work of art. This is not a chair. seeks to position the chair in an expansive dialogue between art, form, and function.

Over 20 artists are represented in this exhibition including Jane Brucker, Geology Studio, Jack Rogers Hopkins, Michael LeVell, Sam Maloof, Adam John Manley, Mike Johnson, Doug McClellan, Jorge Moawad, Chuck Moffit, John Niero, Liz Nurenberg, Michael O'Malley, Mark Posey, Peter Shelton, Ryan Taber, Dave Tourje, Lauren Verdugo, Sarah Watlington, Larry White, and Michael Woodcock.

Blurring lines between art and design, between functional and “art for art’s sake,” has a long tradition in Claremont and the Pomona Valley. In the post World War II period, artists Paul Soldner, James Heuter and Sam Maloof designed and built their own homes. Millard Sheets’ 1954 exhibition The Arts of Daily Living at the Los Angeles County Fair presented the domestic interior as a space for cutting edge art and design. Maloof insisted on being called a woodworker, not an artist. But when a Maloof chair is exhibited on a pedestal in a museum, how can one not see it as sculpture?

Claremont Lewis Museum of Art
This is not a chair.
February 2 – April 21, 2024
Opening Reception: February 3, 6-9 pm

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