An irreverent romp through chair history pulls up in June, when the exhibition “Garry Knox Bennett: Call Me Chairmaker” opens in the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center. Bennett’s witty riffs on design classics pay homage to—while taking aim at—major furniture icons.
A leading maker of one-of-a-kind contemporary furniture at his studio in Oakland, California, Bennett re-imagines the form’s greatest hits. “New Ladderback” replaces the slatted backs on Shaker chairs with a bona fide ladder. “Wing Chair” makes merry with the wraparound Colonial style; Bennett’s version tacks feisty, cut-out aluminum wings onto a take-off of the Zig-Zag Chair, designed in 1934 by Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld. Bennett also plays with designs by furniture master Duncan Phyfe, grandfather of the suburban dining-room set; bentwood pioneer Michael Thonet; and 20th-century woodworker George Nakashima.
His own high-spirited prototypes join the 45 chairs on view. All share three-dimensional verve, appearing almost to swing and sway with bold curves, wiggles and waves.
Sure to bring smiles, the show also provokes thoughts about the buoyantly moving target between function and art. It runs from June 6 through August 9. Phone 202-885-1300 or visit www.american.edu/cas/katzen/museum.