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David Byrne: Furnishing the Self - Upholstering the Soul

October 19–November 25, 2006

32 East 57th Street, 9th Floor, New York, NY


Installation Views

Selected Works

Pace/MacGill is pleased to announce an exhibition of unique chair designs by David Byrne. Bringing together several recently constructed chairs with Byrne’s original drawings for their design, the exhibition will also feature a group of Byrne’s imaginative sketches embroidered onto upholstery fabric and released as editions by PaceEditions. The exhibition will coincide with the release of Byrne’s new book Arboretum, published by McSweeney’s.

Blurring the boundary between fine art and functional design, Byrne conceives working pieces of furniture from unconventional materials, transforming the everyday chair into something surprising and inventive. Byrne’s Molecule Chair, for example, expands the model of a microscopic structure into a fully realized functional object. His Filing Cabinet Chair puts an unexpected twist on a basic piece of office equipment by subverting its normal purpose. Rather than storing documents, this cabinet has only a single shelf that pulls out for seating. These and other examples in the exhibition are imbued with the irony and humor that distinguish Dada and Surrealist design experiments, such as Meret Oppenheim’s claw-footed table (Table aux pieds d’oiseau, 1939) and fur-lined teacup (Object, 1936). Furthermore, Byrne’s forays into furniture continue the design tradition of Donald Judd, Richard Tuttle, and Joel Shapiro who extended their Minimalist aesthetic into the realm of functional objects. Much like the chairs, tables, beds, and lamps produced by these artists, Byrne’s designs combine a strong sculptural presence with the potential for practical use.

Co-founder of the innovative rock group Talking Heads, Byrne has been involved with photography and design since studying at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Maryland Institute College of Art. His ability to create extraordinary visual and sensory experiences out of the otherwise ordinary and mundane informs much of this work. In Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information (2003), Byrne adapted the usual business applications of Microsoft’s Powerpoint presentation software for artistic purposes, producing a series of short films and animated sequences that explore the program’s creative possibilities. For his Playing the Building installation (2005), he converted a Stockholm factory into a giant musical instrument by vibrating its beams, pillars, and pipes.

Byrne has been exhibiting his work since the mid-1990s in major solo shows and public art projects around the world. His multimedia art has also provided the material for several books published by Byrne in recent years, including Arboretum (McSweeny’s, 2006); Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information (Steidl/PaceMacGill, 2003); David Byrne Asks You: What is It? (Smart Art Press Pinspot # 13, 2002); The New Sins (McSweeny’s, 2001); Your Action World (Chronicle Books, 1998); and Strange Ritual (Chronicle Books, 1995).

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