Tom Loeser: Please Please Please
February 2, 2019 — May 12, 2019
In the Main Gallery
Friday, February 1, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
Artist Talk & Tour with Tom Loeser
Saturday, February 2, 3:30 – 5:00 PM
In partnership with the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco, HCCC presents Tom Loeser: Please Please Please, a traveling exhibition of the Wisconsin-based maker and designer’s imaginative furniture and works on paper. The playful show encourages viewers to shake up their habits and interact with the environment and one another, while considering issues such as body posture and etiquette that are often taken for granted. Loeser’s work also raises a clever question: “If the furniture we sit on every day were totally different, would our lives be different, too?”
Guest curated by Glenn Adamson, Please Please Please reimagines what furniture can be by juxtaposing the artist’s furniture with his series of pyrographs and cyanotype prints. “In making this exhibition,” says Adamson, “we have been inspired by Loeser’s way of turning furniture upside-down and inside-out. This is partly about understanding the medium’s full potential, and partly about sheer enjoyment. It’s a show that children and adults alike will love.”
Loeser’s exploration of unconventional furniture forms began in the early 1980s with Folding Chairs, his series of colorful, postmodern chairs that double as wall-hung art. With this body of work, the artist intended to highlight the distinction between functional and formal considerations. Thirty years later, Loeser is still investigating the balance between form and function, with furniture made by joining antique tools—including parts of scythes, shovels, and pitchforks—with natural timber slabs. This “tool handle” series speaks to the union of tool and material that underlies all forms of craftsmanship, while referencing past studio furniture masters like George Nakashima and J.B. Blunk.
The artist’s recent series, New York/Chicago/LA, features three tumblers that have been beautifully carved, painted, and upholstered with felt or dyed leather. Made in collaboration with Paris-trained upholsterer, Matthew Nafranowicz, of The Straight Thread in Madison, Wisconsin, the tumblers’ soft felt surfaces and reinforced corners allow every side to be rolled around and sat upon. The name of the series references the city skyline of the three largest American cities, recognizing the tumblers’ variations in height when arranged at will. Visitors are invited to test out the tumblers, creating, in Loeser’s words, their own “micro-community of sitters.”
Loeser’s playful experimentation in reference to furniture can also be found in his works on paper. By using a selection of chair-shaped metal brands to “burn” images into paper, he created a series of pyrographs. These pieces place emphasis on the physical gesture of embossing and scorching, while his series of cyanotype prints contain ghost-like silhouettes of his small, handmade furniture forms.
As presented together in the exhibition, Loeser’s inventive furniture and works on paper form an engaging show that appeals to all ages on multiple levels. The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated publication with essays by Glenn Adamson and Stephen Knott, author of Amateur Craft and Theory.
Tom Loeser: Please Please Please is co-presented by Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and the Museum of Craft and Design and curated by Glenn Adamson.
About Tom Loeser
Tom Loeser designs and builds one-of-a-kind functional and dysfunctional objects that are based on the history of design and object-making as a starting point for developing new form and meaning. He has been head of the wood/furniture area in the Department of Art at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, since 1991. He holds a BA from Haverford College, a BFA from Boston University, and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. Loeser is the recipient of four Visual Artist Fellowship Grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and an NEA Creative Artist Exchange Fellowship. His work has been featured in many national and international exhibitions and is in the collections of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (New York, NY); Museum of Arts and Design (New York, NY); Rhode Island School of Design Museum (Providence, RI); Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Houston, TX); and many other institutions. He was elected to the American Craft Council College of Fellows in 2012.
Image credits: (1) Tom Loeser, “Dig for Three,” 2015. Walnut, shovel handles. 46 x 34 x 34 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist. (2) Tom Loeser, “Dig 23,” 2015. Spalted maple, shovel handles. 66 x 37 x 26.5 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist. (3) Tom Loeser, “Wall,” 2015. Pyrograph. 39 x 32 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist. (4) Tom Loeser, “Scythe by Scythe” (detail), 2016. Maple, hickory, scythe handles. 102 x 32 x 49 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist. (5) Tom Loeser, “Scythe by Scythe,” 2016. Maple, hickory, scythe handles. 102 x 32 x 49 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist. (6) Tom Loeser, “LA/Chicago/New York,” 2016. Wood, paint, felt. Approximately 12 x 17 x 26 inches each. Photo courtesy of the artist. (7) Tom Loeser, “Not a Dozen Odd,” 2014. Cyanotype. 32 x 28 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist. (8) Tom Loeser, “LA/Chicago/New York,” 2016. Wood, paint, felt. Approximately 12 x 17 x 26 inches each. Photo courtesy of the artist. (9) Tom Loeser, “Heap,” 2015. Pyrograph. 32 x 39 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist. (10) Tom Loeser, “Free Fall #1,” 2014. Cyanotype. 50 x 27.5 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist. (11) Tom Loeser, “Folding Chairs,” 1987. Painted plywood, maple, stainless steel. 34 x 25 x 22 inches each (when open). Photo courtesy of the artist. (12) Tom Loeser, “Folding Chair,” 1987. Painted plywood, maple, stainless steel. 34 x 25 x 22 inches (when open). Photo courtesy of the artist.