Wednesday, October 28, 2015

News: “Plywood, etc.” at the James Barron Gallery in Kent

James Barron invariably presents imaginative exhibitions and “Plywood, etc.” is no exception. The paintings, furniture and sculpture of ten artists working in plywood as well as other no-frills materials is on view at his gallery in Kent until November 8.

Plywood, fashioned from thin layers of wood glued together each layer rotated up to 90 degrees from the other, is a utilitarian material most often used for crates and construction. However, in the hands of artists and designers it can be transformed into works of art.

Plywood, of course, is often used for furniture. There is a chair and a table by Frank Lloyd Wright as well as a chair by Marcel Breuer in the exhibition. Most of all, however, plywood is synonymous with the designs of Charles and Ray Eames. The show features one of their chairs, a cabinet, a desk as well as an undulating screen they designed for Herman Miller. A pair of leg splints they made of molded plywood for soldiers carried from the battlefield in World War Two is one of the most interesting pieces in the show.

Made before the Eames had perfected the technique for molding plywood, the splint is the length of a man’s leg. In order to release the tension so the wood wouldn’t crack when they bent it into a curve, they left holes of several sizes, which allowed the bandages to be attached. The result is a piece of abstract sculpture. By the end of the war the Eames had made over 150,000 of these splints.

By Carla Lott

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