Tom Loeser: Please Please Please

February 12 — July 24, 2021

Curator: Glenn Adamson

Dig 23, 2015. Spalted maple and shovel handles. Photo: Bill Lemke

The exhibition presents imaginative furniture and works on paper by Wisconsin-based maker and designer Tom Loeser. This playful show encourages viewers to shake up their habits and interact with the environment and one another, while considering issues such as body posture and etiquette that are often taken for granted. Loeser’s work also raises a clever question: “If the furniture we sit on every day were totally different, would our lives be different, too?”

Guest curated by Glenn Adamson, Please Please Please reimagines what furniture can be by juxtaposing the artist’s furniture with his series of pyrographs and cyanotype prints. “In making this exhibition,” says Adamson, “we have been inspired by Loeser’s way of turning furniture upside-down and inside-out. This is partly about understanding the medium’s full potential, and partly about sheer enjoyment. It’s a show that children and adults alike will love.”

Loeser’s exploration of unconventional furniture forms began in the early 1980s with Folding Chairs, his series of colorful, postmodern chairs that double as wall-hung art. With this body of work, the artist intended to highlight the distinction between functional and formal considerations. Thirty years later, Loeser is still investigating the balance between form and function, with furniture made by joining antique tools—including parts of scythes, shovels, and pitchforks—with natural timber slabs. This “tool handle” series speaks to the union of tool and material that underlies all forms of craftsmanship, while referencing past studio furniture masters like George Nakashima and J.B. Blunk.

The artist’s recent series, New York/Chicago/LA, features three tumblers that have been beautifully carved, painted, and upholstered with felt or dyed leather. Made in collaboration with Paris-trained upholsterer, Matthew Nafranowicz, of The Straight Thread in Madison, Wisconsin, the tumblers’ soft felt surfaces and reinforced corners allow every side to be rolled around and sat upon. The name of the series references the city skyline of the three largest American cities, recognizing the tumblers’ variations in height when arranged at will.

Loeser’s playful experimentation in reference to furniture can also be found in his works on paper. By using a selection of chair-shaped metal brands to “burn” images into paper, he created a series of pyrographs. These pieces place emphasis on the physical gesture of embossing and scorching, while his series of cyanotype prints contain ghost-like silhouettes of his small, handmade furniture forms.

As presented together in the exhibition, Loeser’s inventive furniture and works on paper form an engaging show that appeals to all ages on multiple levels. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated publication with essays by Glenn Adamson and Stephen Knott, author of Amateur Craft and Theory.

Tom Loeser: Please Please Please was co-presented by Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and the Museum of Craft and Design and curated by Glenn Adamson. The presentation at the Center for Art in Wood is made possible with support from a grant from The Furniture Society through its EFASO program.

The exhibition program at the Center is generously supported by members of the Cambium Giving Society of the Center for Art in Wood, the Bresler Family Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, William Penn Foundation, and Windgate Foundation. Corporate support is provided by Boomerang, Inc. and Sun-lite Corporation.