In Sam Stewart’s work, functionality meets the whimsical and often the absurd. As the New York-based artist rethinks household furniture and domestic objects in a wonderfully playful way, the result leaves one in awe of what it is and what it could be. Seems like the possibilities are endless.
Case in point: Two bright red cone-shaped lamps hang side-by-side to resemble human lungs (“Lungs,” 2020). A series of brick clay heads staring back at you (“Untitled (head),” 2017). An imaginative living room set, where furniture takes the form of the sky, the sun and the clouds (“Untitled (forecast set)” 2017). A giant retro telephone handset made out of ripstop nylon, fiberglass and rubber—also serving as a lamp (“Receiver,” 2020). A literal cat castle where purple, burgundy and mint green collide in a soothing yet cheerful combination that comes to life around a natural tree branch (“Untitled (cat castle),” 2017). A cozy armchair made entirely out of fluffy brioche bread (“Loaf,” 2020).
Conceptual meets practical and useful—or at least that’s what it feels like. His latest work, “Daisy Chain,” now on view at Volume Gallery is no different. The gallery space becomes a living room. But the roof is on the wall instead: a panel of miniature shingles (that the artist found through extensive dollhouse supplier research) complete with two eyelid dormers—those little windows that look unnervingly like eyes, giving houses a chilling, anthropomorphic gaze (“Sleepyhead,” 2022). Heavy-duty chains that magically rise from the ground (“Privacy Screen,” 2022) to form a room divider that never serves its purpose and an impossible trampoline (“Yeeted Image,” 2022) stands leaning so far forward that it triggers anxiety at first sight. An inflatable couch (“Extended Release,” 2022,) a ladder that strikes you as a chaise lounge (“Dad Joke,” 2022,) and a colorful graduated stack of twelve, lidded oval boxes (“Lefty, #000-12,” 2022) complete the unexpected vignette.
Stewart enjoys that controlled chaos. His designs are clean, consistent, aligned and focused yet somehow they simultaneously defy the rules. He pays meticulous attention to craftsmanship—to make his Shaker-style pantry boxes, for example, he almost recreates the Shaker traditional techniques used to build the bentwood originals to a T—while bringing humor and whimsy into the mix. The lines between high design and readymade blur, revealing thought-provoking work that prompts real-life observations. The viewer might need to take a minute and ponder: was this created to be sat on, touched, lived in? And there lies the beauty of Stewart’s work.
Sam Stewart’s “Daisy Chain,” on view at Volume Gallery through October 29.
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