Against the Grain: Wood in Contemporary Art, Craft and Design

Against the Grain: Wood in Contemporary Art, Craft and Design
Museum of Arts and Design, New York
March 19 through July 7, 2013

Ai Weiwei
Featuring nearly 90 installations, sculptures, furniture, and objects, Against the Grain: Wood in Contemporary Art, Craft and Design explores the most cutting-edge conceptual and technical trends in woodworking today. On view March 19 through July 7, 2013 at the Museum of Arts and Design, the exhibition emphasizes the way artists, designers, and craftspeople have incorporated post-modernist approaches and strategies into woodworking—deconstructing vessel shapes, playing on the relationship between function and form, and utilizing woodturning and furniture techniques in the creation of sculpture. The works, most of which have been created since 2000, challenge traditional applications of wood within the design and craft worlds, and exemplify the wide-ranging, frequently unexpected, approaches to the medium by contemporary artists and designers.

MAD’s presentation will feature 57 artists and designers with new works by artists Sarah Oppenheimer, Martin Puryear, Marc Andre Robinson and Alison Elizabeth Taylor, and by designers Ian Spencer and Cairn Young from Yard Sale Project, and Joseph Walsh. Also included are recent works by influential sculptors Ursula von Rydingsvard and Courtney Smith; installation artists Gary Carsley and Francis Cape, designers Maarten Baas, Sebastian Errazuriz, and Pablo Reinoso; and studio wood artists Wendell Castle, Hunt Clark, Andrew Early, and Bud Latven, among others.

“Against the Grain is a complete immersion into the seemingly limitless world of contemporary woodworking, an imaginative experience where function is subsumed by fantastical forms and textures,” says Holly Hotchner, MAD’s Nanette L. Laitman Director. “The creators featured in the exhibition exemplify the innovative practice that MAD is dedicated to supporting and bringing to the fore. Their work defies clear categorization and draws together traditionally disparate themes, ideas, and techniques into stunning and surprising works of art.”
Frank Gehry
The exhibition explores several thematic threads that encapsulate the breadth of creative production in wood. Many of the artists and designers are inspired by wood’s most natural state as trees, utilizing branches, logs, and planks and creating works that draw upon the wood’s grains, textures, and patterns. Others fuse a variety of wood elements together to create distinctly new visual forms, producing a more powerful experience than the individual parts might allow. Digital techniques have also transformed woodworking, allowing creators to manipulate materials and produce illusions that were previously impossible. The use of wood as a material to convey political and social content, as well as humor and visual puns, has also grown and been refined as artists experiment with the medium. Additionally, environmental issues will be woven throughout the exhibition as increased ecological consciousness is implicit in the work of all contemporary woodworkers.

“Wood is a ubiquitous material and a medium of basic function as well as tremendous versatility. In the last several decades, artists have truly begun to test its creative boundaries, expressing and expanding wood’s aesthetic and conceptual possibilities,” says Sims. “The artists featured in Against the Grain represent the forward-thinking approach that has spurred the medium’s renaissance.”