From concrete to abstract: a conceptual evolution of the chair

Socrates had a theory about how we know things exist – I’ve been trying for a while to find a way to explain so it makes sense, but this excerpt from (not embarrassed:) breaks it down better than I could:

He thought that everything had a sort of ideal form, like the idea of a chair, and then an actual chair was a sort of poor imitation of the ideal chair that exists only in your mind. One of the ways Plato tried to explain his ideas was with the famous metaphor of the cave. He said, Suppose there is a cave, and inside the cave there are some men chained up to a wall, so that they can only see the back wall of the cave and nothing else. These men can’t see anything outside of the cave, or even see each other clearly, but they can see shadows of what is going on outside the cave. Wouldn’t these prisoners come to think that the shadows were real, and that was what things really looked like?

I like to think that art developed alongside this same kind of idea – beginning at creating exact replications of reality for documentation purposes, evolving and evolving into billions of beautiful interpretations until the invention of photography slingshot substantive art into billions of other possibilities, but all the other types – the Untitled’s with no beginning or ending or purpose now have an easy way out with clicks of technology.

A chair started out as just a chair and became interpretations of what a chair looked like – sometimes colorful sometimes abstracted – and then moved into the concept of sitting down, resting and comfort, and now has moved into realms of design, rethinking how we’re able to manipulate the construction of chairs in the first place.

I want to create a series out of this thought, posting artworks that focus on an item or idea and move from the most realistic to the most abstract representations of that thing in art, as we move chronologically. If you think I’m missing a work that belongs in the line – if I leave out your favorite representation of a char for instance – and you want me to add another piece to the post, send it on over!

Van Gogh Chair, 1888-1889
for more works by Van Gogh, check out the Van Gogh Gallery here🙂

One and Three Chairs by Joseph Kosuth, 1965

This is another kind of concept along the same lines – how many ways can you represent the same thing?

“Kitchen Chair” by Küchenstuhl, 1965
found here

Man in a Chair, 1983-5
A portrait of Baron Thyssen by Jean-Antoine Watteau
(from the Tate catalogue) found here
Roy McMakin, paintings with chairs & sculptures of chairs, 2006, installation view
Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York and James Harris Gallery, Seattle, Photo: Mark Woods
found here
Rocking Wheel Chair By Mathias Koehler
found in this post with a lot of other cool chairs
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1 Comment

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