James Krenov and art furniture

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A recent discussion about James Krenov sent me to his Web page. I can not, for the life of me, understand the appeal of those curious little curio cabinets he builds. The bases seem totally out of scale with the cabinets that sit on them.
After a day of playing in the shop, I sat down last night and started looking through some old issues of Woodwork magazine. There seems to be a lot more emphasis on design in this magazine than in most others. I looked at many of the highlighted pieces they showed and, while I am sure the joinery was fine, many of the pieces were merely objects d'art. I realized that I held these pieces of "art furniture" in scorn since there seemed to be little function to complement the form.
Why, I wonder, would a person like Krenov who has the skills required to build beautiful AND functional furniture limit himself to building trifles.
Dick Durbin Tallahassee
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(Dick Durbin) wrote:

And up until this point, I thought I was the only person who thought that.

It's art. It doesn't have to *do* anything, it just has to look impressive. ;-)

-- Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
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On Mon, 10 Nov 2003 15:04:34 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) wrote:

You've missed my postings then ? 8-)
Can't stand Krenov's work myself, particularly the "flared jeans" legs to so many pieces. But read his books, because there's a lot you can learn from them.
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MIssed your posts on that subject, anyway, Andy. Normally I do read your posts.

Agreed.
-- Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
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On Mon, 10 Nov 2003 15:04:34 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) wrote:

Add one more to the camp.
"Art" is never easy to understand. <G>
BArry
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snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) wrote:

Traditionally, the term art was applied only to painting sculpture and architecture, because they served the purpose of church and state, creating the kinds of visual spectacle that induced a state of reverance and subservience.
When an anthropologist visited Bali, he was told "We have no art, we do everthing as well as we can." So here in the US we have the concept "art" to distinguish between objects done with care, expertise and sensitivity and the vast innundation of things done with little human involvement, sensitivity or personal growth.
The division of things into functional and lacking function is very obscure as well. Paintings add to the environment of a home, providing color and interest.....are those functional purposes?
Words are essentially useless and misleading when describing things like those made by Krenov, Nakashima and so many others. Is it enough to call a rocking chair by Maloof, a chair? Yes, it is one, but could it also be called sculpture? Yes, but could you understand it as sculpture without having a visual image or photograph to understand why it should be called that? Study the words long enough and it makes a person feel like keeping the pen in the drawer and the mouth shut and the eyes wide open.
Personally, I like Krenov, both for the simplicity of his design, and the integrity with which his work is produced. When you get into so many other designs, like Federal, etc., they were all based on wood being manipulated to project the image of being something else more monumental instead of being allowed to be wood in all its natural glory and wondrous humility.
My 2
Doug Stowe
--
Doug Stowe Author of: Creating Beautiful Boxes With Inlay Techniques
Simply Beautiful Boxes Making Elegant Custom Tables
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wrote:

How would you compare Krenov to Nakashima ?
-- Die Gotterspammerung - Junkmail of the Gods
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Nakashima seemed much more intune with the humility of the wood.
-Jack
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Andy Dingley wrote:

Somewhat like comparing Bach to Bethoven - but in an effort to actually do so, I would say that Krenov is most "in tune" with the process of work. Nakashima was (he died in 1990) most "in tune" with the wood itself. Neither sensitivity, imo, is better than the other. Both are valuable, and each artist has an esteemed place in the world of craft and woodworking.
Rick
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Andy Dingley wrote: mility.

- Nakashima would use pieces with splits and crack - spanning them with a couple of bow ties if they threatened the integrity of the surface. - Krenov doesn't usually leave cracks and splits in his finished pieces
- Nakashima pieces are typically of a single wood and often a single slab. - Krenov pieces are typically of several, complimentry (sp?) woods put together in such a way that they make a pleasing whole which does not hold the eye on any one wood.
- Nakashima seemed to keep the woodworking to the absolue minimum (his chairs being a minor exception) - Krenov uses several basic joining methods - done exception- ally well and often invisible.
- Nakashima was a university grad (architecture I think) who traveled extensively, associated with artist in various countries and spent years in an ashram in India. - Krenovs' travels seemed to have been driven by economics and he doesn't seem to draw on others for inspiration, preferring to do all of the work on each of his pieces, a solitary woodworker (his teaching seems to be the exception).
Nakashima had more wood in one place at one time than Kremov does.
Nakashima visited significant trees all over the world and sketched them, along with lots of other trees. I don't think Krenov has drawn any trees yet. He gets interested once it's been cut and dried.
Nakashima wrote a book - Krenov has done four, possibly five books.
Nakashima used more japanese woodworking tools than Krenov (big surprise right?)
Nakashima understood busines - marketing, promotion etc. while Krenov eventually did well in spite of himself.
I don't think Nakashima was a tennis player.
charlie b
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wrote:

I'm sure I've seen at least one Krenov cabinet with slab doors where one (or both) had a vertical split all the way through - and delicate tiny strips across it to constrain it. However it was still clearly a slab of _timber_ not "wood". The edges were absolutely square, the joinery was perfect. The split was merely a more-developed form of the typical Krenov feature of a colour stripe of highly figured wood.
Nakashima made furniture from trees, Krenov made it from timber, the regularised product of sawmills.

Agreed - bit odd really, how naturalistic his tables were, and how '70s space-station-futurist his chairs were. Although he never really followed any overall design tradition, the chairs were a complete rejection of traditional woodworking approaches and had more in common with architecture and concrete work.
Something I plan to make one day is a Conoid chair for outdoor use - in reinforced concrete.
I've also got the elm seat slab for a wooden Conoid waiting here - manyana.
-- Die Gotterspammerung - Junkmail of the Gods
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brought forth from the murky depths:

Didn't he make high-end cassette tape players? <gd&r>
------------------------------------------------------------- * * Humorous T-shirts Online * Norm's Got Strings * Wondrous Website Design * * http://www.diversify.com -------------------------------------------------------------
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wrote:

Commedia del'Arte?
Regards, Tom Thomas J. Watson-Cabinetmaker Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania http://users.snip.net/~tjwatson
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On 10 Nov 2003 06:57:37 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@tfn.net (Dick Durbin) wrote:

"Initial reaction to the painting is overwhelmingly critical. The German fair guide calls Guernica "a hodgepodge of body parts that any four-year-old could have painted." It dismisses the mural as the dream of a madman."
http://www.pbs.org/treasuresoftheworld/guernica/gmain.html
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On Mon, 10 Nov 2003 15:09:45 GMT, Tom Watson

I'll see you and raise you a mudflapII. http://www.brooklynx.org/rotunda/reading/reading.asp (scroll down) 4,000 of our tax dollars paid for this tripe.
-------------------------------------------------------- Murphy was an Optimist ---------------------------- http://diversify.com Comprehensive Website Development
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To each according to his own tastes. I've always admired Krenov's designs, but I generally dislike woodworking as "art" and not getting anything functional from it. For the most part his pieces offer both. Some are more functional than others though. Take a look at some of his older work (like one of his silver chests) for great technical, aesthetic as well as functional values. For me, I like the more contemporary designs of Krenov, Maloof and Nakajima but when I look at a piece of Federal or Baroque furniture - I admire the technical of it, but hate the designs. So like I said, everybody has their own tastes.

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Gary wrote:

Unlike most of the other decorative arts, furniture has a "functional" component that most other disciplines do not - jewlery making, ceramic, painting, etc . . . A chair has to "sit" right, be durable. A dining table needs to allow people the room to sit comfortably, not bang their knees together, be durable etc . . . While hopefully fulfilling some functional role, furniture also has the capacity to rise to the level of "art" - i.e. some type of self expression that is reflective of the maker - All of these topics of course are subject to individual interpretation - especially the "art" component - but that is what makes furniture so enduringly interesting to me. The body of work which has a function, and achieves some degree of "self expression" (Krenov's work being an interesting example - some I like, some I don't), is IMO, the most interesting. It's what I strive for in my own work. Everyone is free of course to interpret any given design and piece as it suits them - good or bad - funtional, or non-functional - wll crafted or not -
Glad to see an interesting thread for a change on the NG.
BTW, the Furniture Society is a great organization if this topic is of interest to you. http://www.furnituresociety.org /
Rick
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I'd agree with jewlery and painting, but ceramics have a strong functional component.
-Jack
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And jewelry doesn't? When you give some to the right person, the rewards can be very functional. Ed
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snipped-for-privacy@nospam.net says...

Yep. I'm of exactly the opposite camp. I admire the technical in Krenov's work and also his approach to his work as expounded in his books, but I don't find his style that appealing. I deeply treasure the rich style of the Federal style.
OTOH, I also am of the opinion that they stopped writing music in about 1850 or so, and really the best was done in the 1700's, thus maybe my style esthetics also reflect my musical esthetics. :-)

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