Seat yourself

Sometimes a chair is much more than a chair.

That’s one impression that “The Chair Show” will likely make when the inventive exhibition is unveiled Sept. 28 at ArtsWestchester in White Plains — but it’s also likely to be just one impression of many.

It’s being billed as an exploration of “sculptural, conceptual, functional (and perhaps dysfunctional) forms of seating, as well as artwork inspired by chairs.”

And what visitors to the show can expect ranges from a playful pair of repurposed chairs festooned in multicolor pennants by Amanda Browder to a contemporary painting, “Pool Chairs,” by Dyan Rosenberg, from an ominous steel/painted chair by B.A. D’Alessandro that features a saw (“At Your Own Risk”) to a chair seemingly disappearing right into the floor by Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong.

Such diversity is no surprise.

“There’s definitely pieces you would want in your home and probably a few you know definitely belong in an art museum,” says Kathleen Reckling with a laugh. Reckling, ArtsWestchester’s director of public programs, co-curated the show with Amy Kurlander, gallery curator.

Advance materials share that the chair itself is “endlessly recast as luxurious or austere, regal or intimate, straightforward or ironic. Chairs give shape to the ways in which we rest and recreate ourselves in private, and inhabit or witness ‘seats of power’ in public. As supporting players of day-to-day existence, focal points of ceremonies and as revered objects of spiritual and sacred spaces, chairs are invested with meanings and purposes as diverse as the human family.”

The works were sourced from artists based throughout the metro region through an open call as well as curatorial outreach and more than 50 artists will be showing their work.

In what will fill the two floors of ArtsWestchester’s gallery spaces, works large and small will feature an array of materials, including painted wood and flowing fabrics, hard metal angles and soft, overstuffed cushions — and much more.

Sarah Haviland’s “What the Birds Were Saying” features a fanciful pair of steel recycled chairs with galvanized mesh and enamel, while Jude Ferencz’s “Copper Throne” is at once intricate and regal. An homage to repurposing, “The Be-Kind to the Bee-Bench” by Ann Ladd incorporates a wooden church pew, recycled boogie board, wire and acrylic paint for a design imbued with both whimsy and meaning.

Whether an artist is showcasing the idea of working with repurposed materials, invoking memories through design — or simply questioning the idea of function, there is, ArtsWestchester CEO Janet T. Langsam notes, “another aspect of this show.”

“These chairs are all made by people. They’re not stamped out by a machine.”

It’s a thought Reckling immediately reinforces: “The artist is present in these pieces.”

In broadest terms, the show is also an example of the power of art to encourage people to look at things differently, Langsam says.

“It’s fun. It’s something familiar. It’s something you see every day and you see it in a different light.”

And, she adds, “The Chair Show” is expected to have a broad appeal, going beyond art enthusiasts or designers.

“One of the things about a show like this that I love is it can be open to a lot of different people. It’s not precious. Everyone can have an idea about a chair.”

And when talk turns to the exhibition as the focus of the October edition of ArtsWestchester’s “Gallery Nite Out,” Langsam has a simple question — “Can we play musical chairs?”

That, of course, remains to be seen.

An opening reception for “The Chair Show” will be held Sept. 28 at ArtsWestchester, at 31 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains. The exhibition will then run Oct. 1-19 in the gallery and will be the focus of the Oct. 10 “Gallery Nite Out” event. For more, visit artswestchester.org.

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