Seeing designers create and show off fancy chairs is like watching ants build an anthill. On the one hand, it’s easy to smirk: Look at them scurry! Putting so much effort in! How cute that they can’t tell it’s pointless! On the other hand, it’s beautiful to behold: These are creatures utterly in their element, doing exactly what they were born to do. You may have both reactions to The Chair, “an exhibition of one-of-a-kind chairs” at The Future Perfect in New York. And that’s the whole point.
The gallery’s curators lean into this tension by asking a cheeky question up front. “Reinventing the chair is a singular challenge and one that begs the question: Why?”
Indeed: I scanned the nearly four dozen chairs included in The Chair and saw none that I’d like to sit in more than once, all the while wishing that I could sit in each one exactly once. There’s your answer to the Why? question: Chairs may be wildly mundane and ubiquitous, but they’re also impossible not to have opinions about. And having those opinions doesn’t require elitist taste or fancy training. Any human can see The Chair and get something out of it.
Besides that, the chairs themselves are fascinating. David Weeks’s Spartan stone chaise looks surprisingly comfortable. The “Oberon Chair” looks like a mysterious combination of bathroom fixture and torture implement. Chris Wolston’s chair is goofy and inviting; Ara Thorose’s looks like a puzzle to solve with your butt (in a good way).
In the end, chairs are like typographic glyphs. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all–but exploring the infinity of variations never gets old.