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Everyday Objects Transformed at Villa Terrace

Art Review

Nov. 22, 2010
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In his exhibition "Trees Are the Biggest Vegetable" (at Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum through Jan. 23, 2011), UW-Madison art department chair Tom Loeser questions the premise behind everyday objects, chairs included. He welcomes us to challenge the way we interact with "mundane" objects by observing them in an upside-down, spinning round and round and side-to-side kind of way. His brilliantly crafted wooden pieces deliver a sense of function and dysfunction, similar to the way Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat electrifies and manipulates a child's perception.

Ever question why rocking chairs rock forward and backward and not sideways? Loeser explores such less-functional methods of design, creating something that is intellectually stimulating. So whether one chooses to categorize his work as contemporary or postmodern, his furniture causes a curiously uncomfortable, visually enticing vibe. Does one cop a squat or stand back and sip wine? Why not both?

Loeser's furniture confronts social norms like sitting at the dining table by transforming the experience into a fun, vibrant guessing game of who sits where. With tall, thin chairs covered in green and blue lines and medium-height, medium-width chairs brightly saturated in swirls, he guarantees one will find just the right chair—one that is simultaneously all wrong for someone else.

"I am really concerned with form and proportion and composition—all the basic design tools that can make a piece sing or fall flat," Loeser explains. And yes, his work does sing of sophistication, transformation and postmodernism. Loeser's designs can alter our preconceived notions of what makes household furniture acceptable.


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