One man's junk is another's furniture

December 11, 1993|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

1/8 TC This is a tale of two Davids.

David Hess makes furniture out of found objects, mostly metal -- everything from manhole covers to boiler parts. David Klein makes furniture out of found objects, mostly wood -- wood from buildings that have been closed, abandoned or hit by fire. Each has his own studio, but they also make furniture together.

A group of their pieces, both individual and collaborative, is now on view at Galerie Francoise, and it's a study in strengths. These works, made from bits and pieces of things, don't look like that at all. They have enormous wholeness, integrity. And while they are all to some degree functional, they are so strong that they possess a positively sculptural dignity.

Take their "Two-Ton Tilly with the Floy-Floy," which easily overcomes its admittedly silly title. "Two-Ton Tilly" is actually a dining table. Six and a half feet long by 3 1/2 feet wide, it looks like it would seat eight without trouble. The top is made of old boards that were painted various colors in another life and have been allowed to retain their colors -- blues, grays, greens, browns, yellows, pinks. These are bordered by wide planks of unpainted knotty pine, making a frame that lends the central boards the air of an abstract painting.

The bottom of the table top is just as handsome, covered with overlapping flat pieces of copper whose edges have been turned under. The sturdy legs once probably supported a big piece of machinery. Everything about this piece seems right, and it couldn't feel less like a bunch of junk put together, which is what it is.

Their "Lacy Foundry" is more whimsical. Named after a defunct foundry from which some of its materials came, it's nominally a cabinet but really an 8-foot-tall object with a small cabinet near the bottom. From its feet, which once supported an old icebox, to its porcelainmidsection that used to be the base of a sink, to its upper reaches where a propeller is topped by metal ball, it has a presence that combines humor and rectitude.

Perhaps the most sculptural of all the Davids' pieces in this show is "General Wrecking," named after a wrecking company from which some of its material came. It consists of a vertical box attached at the back to a large vertical piece of studded, rusted steel. These two elements together form a composition with its own irregular but perfectly balanced geometry.

The two Davids' individual works, whether it's Klein's cabinet called "Aftermath" or Hess's settee called "Meter Reader," are also successful; but unlike many artist collaborations these Davids play off of each other's strengths, and their joint efforts are even better than their individual ones.

It was a mistake to include examples of Stephen Perrin's quite different furniture in a show with the Davids, even though there are walls separating them. Made with beautiful woods such as bird's-eye and curly maple rather than found objects, and elegantly finished, Perrin's work would look impressive in other company. But in the context of the gutsy, forceful work of the Davids, Perrin's pieces look fussy and overwrought.


What: Furniture by David Hess, David Klein and Stephen Perrin

Where: Galerie Francoise, Green Spring Station, Falls and Joppa roads

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; through Jan. 3

Call:(410) 337-2787

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