A Colorful Miami Group Show Plays with Children’s Design from Yesterday and Today

Aug 5, 2016 10:21PM

While a child’s physical world may seem tinier, simpler, and more controlled than that of an adult, the spaces where children live, play, eat, and sleep are arguably more important. Children, after all, can’t help themselves; their lives are defined by adults. These smaller realms—the crib, the high chair, the stroller—serve as jumping off points for “Wrap Your Arms Around Me,” a new group show at Gallery Diet in Miami.

The exhibition—a collaboration between Gallery Diet and kinder MODERN, a New York gallery—pairs historic and contemporary children’s furniture and design with paintings by New York City–based Nate Heiges and Miami-based Michael Clifford.

In childrearing, most adults assume a protective role—a primordial impulse that’s reflected in traditional children’s furniture. Take, for example, the gentle curves of the Mod Chair (circa 1970) and Jean Louis Avril’s Desk and Chair (1967), which protect and embrace a child’s body.

Nearby, the cheerful colors of Bernard Holdaway’s Tomotom Chair (1966) and the playful functionality of Hans Mitzlaff and Albrecht Lange’s USSR Rocker (1960) practically invite children to sit down and rest. Hand Chair (after Pedro Friedeberg), also crafted around 1960, takes the concept even further, emulating the shape of a large adult hand that cradles the seated child.

Building upon these traditions are pieces by more recent designers such as Katie Stout, Lucas Maassen, and the French-born Philippe Nacson. Interestingly, Nacson’s Mini Ant Chair (2016), though colorful and cozy-looking, is less childlike than some of the show’s historic pieces. Indeed, its sleek style seems inspired by modern chaise lounges designed for adults (a reminder, perhaps, that everyone’s gotta grow up sometime).

Alongside the furniture and design pieces on display, Heiges and Clifford, the Mana Wynwood artist-in-residence, offer paintings and works on paper that toy with similar themes. Though their works may seem to only indirectly engage with children’s design, they explore related ideas of memory, childhood, and nostalgia. Their playful paintings serve as poignant accompaniments in this rich collaborative exhibition.

—Bridget Gleeson

Wrap Your Arms Around Me” is on view at Gallery Diet, Miami, Jul. 9–Sep. 3, 2016.

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