Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Utility Furniture Scheme

Francis Cape
453 West 17th Street
April 25–June 6
From 1942 to 1952, the war-battered British government ran something called the Utility Furniture Scheme. It issued plans intended to encourage “quality” furniture-making that would also conserve natural resources––with success on both counts to be guaranteed by the plans’ modernist designs. In his compelling, complex show at this gallery, Francis Cape, who once earned his living as a carpenter, re-creates some of those designs. Working in unfinished poplar, Cape provides pared-down versions of Utility beds, chairs, and wardrobes that look like they could be prototypes for the original pieces. Cape’s furniture comes juxtaposed with four square photographs from our own time that document examples of demotic design destroyed, or gone wrong, in post-Katrina New Orleans and impoverished sites in upstate New York, where the artist lives.

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