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Los Angeles
Sam Maloof
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108
September 24, 2011 - January 30, 2012

The Constructions of Sam Maloof
by Kate Wolf

Though “The House That Sam Built,” also a part of PST, at the Huntington, is more ordered than the Wood show and displays not only Maloof’s own furniture but also his personal collection of ceramics, painting and sculpture from other Pomona Valley contemporaries, it too gives a vision of the environment that influenced Maloof’s life and work. Maloof was a great minimalist, as well as a technical innovator who, like other mid-century furniture makers, built many of his pieces ergonomically. His Occasional "String" Chair, 1950, uses basic materials and obtuse angles to create an elegant seat, one that seems to transcend its structure while referencing it at the same time—the chair is clearly but a wood frame wrapped with white chord. A low, circular coffee table also from 1950 made of both wood and plywood reveals its pegged joints on the surface. This detail of “constructed decoration,” also self-consciously announces the table as something made.

Two of Maloof’s wonderful settees are displayed. One of them, Prototype Spindle Back Settee, 1965, made of walnut and leather essentially appears as two separate chairs joined together. The separate entities lean into each other like Siamese twins, a ridge in the middle becoming the shared nucleus, a small gesture of unification. Maloof fashioned his rocking chairs with extra long back legs that look like antique snow skis, even making a miniature one for his grandson.

If Wood and Maloof never actually met, they probably were at least aware of the other; Wood apprenticed with two artists featured in the Maloof show, Gertrud and Otto Natzler. The impetus for the question though is part of the merit of Pacific Standard Time. And now into its third official week, the web of inquiries across shows and across town is most likely just beginning.

—Kate Wolf

Top Image: Sam Maloof (1916 – 2009), Occasional “String” Chair, 1950, Walnut, maple, and cord, 29 ½ x 24 x 33 in. Collection of the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts, Alta Loma, Calif. Credit: John Sullivan, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Posted by Kate Wolf on 10/16/11

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