Jim Cole’s “Poetic Statements” Bridge the Gap between Sculpture and Furniture

Dec 2, 2016 11:19PM
Seating Piece, 2013
Magen H Gallery

It’s been 30 years since the New York Times heralded the arrival of an emerging style that mixed art and design in a “brash celebration of the moment.” One of the driving forces behind the movement was gallerist Richard Kaufmann; its nerve center was his gallery, Art et Industrie.

Under Kaufmann’s guidance, the movement was a collective experiment in “redefining the object for the furniture.” Many artists and designers worked toward that goal, chief among them Jim Cole, an American artist credited with bridging the gap between sculpture and furniture.

Dorset Marker, 1990
Magen H Gallery

Cole naturally came by the craft. It’s true he holds several relevant degrees, including an MFA in sculpture and an associate’s degree in engineering, but, as he says, there’s something instinctive about the practice he has developed. “I am continuing a long tradition of personal expression using an established language,” he has said. “The language I’ve chosen, or more appropriately, the language that has chosen me, is form. The results are the objects in front of you.”

"Ode to King Bee" armchair, ca. 1990
Magen H Gallery

Those objects, a selection of which is available at Magen H Gallery in New York, include pieces that look like sculptural chairs or avant-garde benches, such as the bronze Seating Piece (2013). Here, and in Cole’s oeuvre in general, form and function are equal. These works aren’t sculptures, nor are they furniture: They’re objects.

To explain the distinction, Cole often turns to a parallel with language. “I consider these to be, in the simplest terms, poetic statements,” he has said of his work. “Each is a poem written in the same language but with diverse subject matter.”

Sculptural bench, 2016
Magen H Gallery

Though Art et Industrie closed its doors in 1999, many of the movement’s key artists are now represented at other galleries in New York. Last year, Magen H Gallery staged a major retrospective of the era’s greatest hits, works the New York Times once called “irreverent, fun, awkward, colorful, charged with energy and purposely in dubious taste.” Now, the gallery is taking Cole’s innovative work on the road: A glimmering sculptural bench is on view at Design Miami/.

—Bridget Gleeson

Jim Cole’s work is on view in Magen H Gallery’s booth at Design Miami/, Nov. 30–Dec. 4, 2016.

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