Snarkitecture Subverts Sensible Design in Chicago Solo Show of Hazardous Furniture

Snarkitecture's "Break," Lacquered wood, cast rubber
(Courtesy Volume Gallery)

Daniel Arsham and Alex Mustonen, better known as the Brooklyn-based artist-architect hybrid Snarkitecture, have quite a few artistic accomplishments under their belt. There's their performance art, which includes a human-sized tunnel system that Arsham carved and chiseled out of a mammoth block of architectural foam at the Storefront for Art and Architecture over the course of three weeks last spring; set design, like the pixelated cloud mise-en-scène for last year's Merce Cunningham Dance Company farewell tour; and public installations like the scattering of giant concrete versions of the letters in "Miami Orange Bowl" across the grounds of the new Miami Marlins Stadium. It's surprising that hyperactive duo is only now having its first solo exhibition. "Furniture" opens at Chicago's Volume Gallery this month, and will shed light on the pair’s endeavors in industrial design.

As with all Arsham and Mustonsen's endeavors, the pieces are postmodern and irreverent (some might even say snarky) takes on classic living room staples. They feature signature craggy surfaces that give the impression they were each clumsily chiseled from the same white block of Styrofoam — not unlike the one Arsham dug his way through in “DIG” — but they’ve been crafted from far sturdier materials like cast marble and lacquered wood. Sturdiness does not a functional object make, however. Their visible fractures and simulated states of disrepair imply a sense of instability. Break, a cabinet, is completely cracked down the middle, sinking towards its center on squashed feet. There’s also Lean, a floor lamp that seems to be falling into another, the light fixture of which appears to be melting towards the floor. Pour, a wood table, is “suspended in collapse”; its permanent slant suggests that any liquids placed on it would quickly find themselves on the floor.

These basic pieces of furniture have been altered to disrupt their functionality. Snarkitecture's lacquered wood and fiberglass shelves work just fine, however. We spotted them in use at the Grey Area showroom.

“Furniture” is on view at the Volume Gallery from April 20 through June 13. To see pieces of this functionless furniture, click the slide show