MAM hosts the Green Furniture Design and Green Fair
On Saturday, Jan. 30, the Milwaukee Art Museum will host the Green Fair, a gathering of environmentally aware speakers, vendors and the public for a series of artist demonstrations, activities and talks. There will be a show of snow furniture created by guest curator and artist, Hongtao Zhou, as well as a Green Marketplace. And of course, plenty of interesting art.
Currently on view at the museum is Green Furniture: Sustainable Design in the 21st Century, curated by the Chipstone Foundation’s Ethan Lasser, and running through March 14. It’s an inventive and ambitious show, as not only is the furniture on display conscious of materials, resources and their environmental impact, but so was the entire creation of this exhibition.
Care was taken to minimize transportation — even to the extent of bringing in art via bicycle. The installation elements are all reused, recycled or able to be repurposed, and, according to the wall text, not a single piece of paper was printed during the production of this exhibition.
There are things you would imagine to find in this selection of furniture, such as an abundance of natural and recycled materials. But the way they’re put together makes these pieces especially interesting. Bike Furniture Design’s “Chair” is comfy, springy and leaves no doubt as to where this originally came from, but the transformation makes it an interesting and unexpected piece, nonetheless. Joel Hester’s “Table” is a bit more subtle, as it was in a previous life a 1970 Chevy pickup truck.
Chairs dominate this show of pieces from 15 makers. One of my favorites is a stool by Molo Designs. It’s made of Kraft paper, which doesn’t sound much like something you’d want to sit on comfortably. But, not only is it comfortable, sturdy and – bonus – – packs flat, the aesthetics are earthy and futuristic. This stool and its companion pieces — a smaller stool and a lamp — call to mind geodesic domes as well as the handcrafted care of paper projects.
The most daring piece is Jennifer Anderson’s chair made of a steel frame and mud. I love this design — so crisp and modern, something you could envision in gleaming white or shining in steel. The cracked mud is like ancient earth, old and nourishing, sculpted into a sleek design.
Tanya Aguiñiga’s “Rock Sofa” is one of the most playful and comfortable. It’s a Styrofoam core wrapped in yarn and shaped something like a giant bean — irresistible. If one were prone to napping in public places, this would be your dream.
Aside from the novelty of materials and design, the Green Furniture show highlights questions of longevity associated with some of these big objects in our lives. What is the expected lifespan of all the cheap desk chairs and unstable bookcases in the world? What becomes of them when we move on to the next piece of disposable furniture — replacing the do-it-yourself desk from Target with a newer one from IKEA?
What of the resources devoted to getting the materials, the transportation and other associated costs for the production of, ultimately, disposable furniture? And, what if we were to take more cues from Green Furniture — reusing and repurposing in clever and interesting ways?
Green Furniture: Sustainable Design in the 21st Century
Milwaukee Art Museum
Nov. 12 – March 14
700 Art Museum Drive, Milwaukee
Milwaukee Art Museum
Saturday, January 30
10 a.m.-5 p.m.