An Alan Smithee Retrospective
Featuring a wider angle on the curve of the backrest, this is one of the first examples of a grass seat chair produced by Nakashima. Acquired from the designer on his arrival in New Hope prior to the completion of his family compound and studios, he was living in a tent on the property at the time. The grass seat woven by wife Marion Nakashima, is an eastern influence that lightens the piece and compliments the intermittently placed dual styles, a contrast with the spindle backs typical of his other seating.
One of the earliest seating forms created in series, it is distinctive in its dowel joinery construction. A technique revived by the English and American Arts & Crafts movement in the 1850s, by the 1930s it was considered effete and inappropriate to the needs of furniture design and manufacturing, mostly used in the replication of historicist design. Nakashima’s employment of it here while seemingly anachronistic, was inspired by a strong philosophical need to express and expose structure in design.
After attempting to discontinue the grass seat chair in the 1960s, it remains one of the most popular designs currently produced by the Nakashima Woodworker’s studio. Notably it was used by the architect Michael Gabellini in a number of important projects of the 1990s.
A chair of similar vintage is displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Comissioned by Rene and donated by Anne D’Harnoncourt
The Collection of Hugh and Polly Moore
In the workshop of George Nakashima, the soul of the tree was celebrated. "It is an art- and soul-satisfying adventure to walk the forests of the world, to commune with trees,” Nakashima said, “to bring this living material to the work bench, ultimately to give it a second life." Nakashima, an architect who trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discovered woodworking while in an internment camp during WWII. In 1943, he moved to New Hope, Pennsylvania and opened his studio. There he created pieces highlighting wood’s natural beauty, most notably by including the tree’s rough outer layer, or the “free edge”. Nakashima worked throughout the world; in India, he became deeply spiritual. He developed a goal to construct peace altars on every continent—the first, made of book-matched slabs of black walnut, was installed at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine in 1986.
American, 1905-1990, Spokane, Washington, based in New Hope, Pennsylvania