The Correal Life
At Greene Naftali, in New York, until March 15, gallerygoers will find the latest batch of work by Bjarne Melgaard, a semi-infamous Norwegian artist known for incorporating imagery from underground subcultures like heavy-metal music and S&M into his paintings and drawings. Lately, this imagery has migrated onto a new medium for the artist: furniture. Greene Naftali’s exhibition includes several examples of an unlikely collaboration between Melgaard and the venerable Austrian furniture manufacturer Wittmann. The Barcelona-based artist has taken sofas by Josef Hoffman and Friedrich Kiesler and covered them in upholstery—produced by Backhausen, which made fabric for the Wiener Werkstätte—featuring the cast of bizarre, cartoonish monsters, elephants, ghosts, and Chihuahuas that populate his new paintings.
Kiesler’s furniture is an interesting match for Melgaard. In the 1930s and ‘40s, the Austrian architect and artist created several pieces for Wittmann that have since been enshrined as Modernist classics. Yet unlike fellow canonical furniture designers like Mies and the Eameses, who revered function and economy, Kiesler embraced a complex and oddball theoretical framework for his work. To vastly oversimplify: his “pseudo-functionalist” furniture was based on the idea that items share a “correlation” in space, dependent not on their physical arrangement but on an invisible life force flowing through all things.
While Kiesler’s ideas were abstruse, his furniture often had a sly sense of humor. This is the creator, after all, of the Party Lounge (above), a wheeled leather sofa with a reclining backrest and room for (at least) six. Something tells us Kiesler would be amused to see Melgaard’s transgressive images splayed across his plush, pseudo-functionalist forms.
Read more: Frederick Kiesler as a Commercial Designer