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Bench

Bench

  • Place of origin:

    Rochester (New York) (made)

  • Date:

    1994 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Albert Paley, born 1944 (designer and maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Mild steel, forged and fabricated with Honduran mahogany seat ingrained with gold dust.

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with assistance from the United States Information Service.

  • Museum number:

    M.11-1995

  • Gallery location:

    Ironwork, Room 114e, case EXP

Commissioned by the V&A for the Ironwork Gallery. This bench is based upon the second design proposal submitted by Paley to the Museum. His first comprised of dramatic ribbon and banner shapes emanating from the back of the bench (similar to used in Synergy, Philadelphia) and was rejected amidst concerns for visitors' safety. The presentation drawings for this bench (M.11-1995) and the earlier version may be consulted in the V&A Print Room, (E.2870 and E.2871-1995).

The final solution skillfully combines resonances of sinuous plant and spiky reptilian forms overlaid with fanciful echoes of mechanical automobile design. The inspiration for intertwined, sinuous organic forms can be traced back to some of Paley's earlier works, such as the fence for the Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, Tennessee (1981). But it remains an enduring theme in more recent commissions, where it is sometimes as here combined with some violently spiked and sharp edged forms.

The Paley bench is the first piece of ironwork to be commissioned from an American artist by the Museum and the only American object to be exhibited in the Ironwork Gallery.

Physical description

Bench, mild steel, with Honduran mahogany seat ingrained with gold dust, United States, Rochester, New York, 1994, designed and made by Albert Paley. Flat, rectangular seating surface with upturned ends to accommodate a maximum of three adults seated. Made from stained and finished Honduran mahogany, ingrained with gold dust beneath a wax coating. The seat rests upon two horizontally aligned steel bars, which in turn are supported by an iron structure of forged and decorated steel.

The design has a strong structural symmetry, along a diagonal axis, but is asymmetrical in its detailing and decoration. Its primary structural components are four faceted, tapering steel bars. Each bar is forged into a penannular hoop or wheel which flanks the corner of the mahogany seat to which it is adjacent. The bottom portion of each hoop rests on the ground, the upper projects above the level of the seat for almost half of its height. Together the four hoops form the legs of the bench. The upper surface of all the hoops are supplied with sinuous, rippling patterns in low relief. The front right and back left hoops are each further embellished with a flat steel ribbon or lace, of varying thickness, wrapped tightly round the upper portion of their perimeters, and attached to the bars beneath with square headed bolts. This decoration varies in detail from one hoop to the other.

The steel bar which forms each hoop is twisted back upon itself where it meets the ground until it reaches the underside of the seat corner. From there it runs down and across in a shallow diagonal until it reaches the ground on the other side of the bench. At this point the bar branches in two directions and is hammered into flatter section. One element branches sharply backwards and assumes a two pronged, almost beak-like form. The other element with a flat upper surface and jagged, stepped edges, branches towards the adjacent hoop and meets it at the point where its own diagonal bar begins its downward slope. Where the diagonals intersect adjacent to the hoops, they are bolted on to one another; where they cross in the centre of the front and back of the bench, they have been linked by a snake-like steel lace.

The front and back hoops are inclined slightly towards one another. The visual link is physically reinforced by a series of faceted steel laces which link the hoops together by piercing their rims at certain points. Here there is only superficial symmetry: on the right the entwining lace has two areas reminiscent of spindles wound with yarn, where the steel has been twisted under pressure and then tightly compressed. On the left there is one area with such detailing, whilst at another point, the bar has been thickened, faceted and partially cut into a series of horizontal sections before being twisted.

Place of Origin

Rochester (New York) (made)

Date

1994 (made)

Artist/maker

Albert Paley, born 1944 (designer and maker)

Materials and Techniques

Mild steel, forged and fabricated with Honduran mahogany seat ingrained with gold dust.

Dimensions

Width: 93 cm, Length: 350.5 cm maximum, Height: 76.2 cm, Length: 183 cm mahogany seat, Width: 66 cm seat, Height: 7.6 cm seat, Weight: 1500 lb

Object history note

Commissioned by the V&A for the Ironwork Gallery. This bench is based upon the second design proposal submitted by Paley to the Museum. His first comprised of dramatic ribbon and banner shapes emanating from the back of the bench (similar to used in Synergy, Philadelphia) and was rejected amidst concerns for visitors' safety. The presentation drawings for this bench (M.11-1995) and the earlier version may be consulted in the V&A Print Room, (E.2870 and E.2871-1995).

The final solution skillfully combines resonances of sinuous plant and spiky reptilian forms overlaid with fanciful echoes of mechanical automobile design. The inspiration for intertwined, sinuous organic forms can be traced back to some of Paley's earlier works, such as the fence for the Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, Tennessee (1981). But it remains an enduring theme in more recent commissions, where it is sometimes as here combined with some violently spiked and sharp edged forms.

The Paley bench is the first piece of ironwork to be commissioned from an American artist by the Museum and the only American object to be exhibited in the Ironwork Gallery.

Historical context note

Originally trained as a jeweller and goldsmith, Albert Paley established Paley Studios Ltd., in Rochester, New York in 1973. Since then he has produced a wide range of forged metal objects, primarily using forged steel. His designs extend from large scale sculpture, such as Synergy at Museum Towers, Philadelphia, completed 1987 to architectural metalwork including major commissions such as the gates for the State Capitol Building in Albany New York, completed 1981 as well as smaller decorative items such as jewellery.

Descriptive line

Bench, mild steel, with Honduran mahogany seat ingrained with gold dust, United States, Rochester, New York, 1994, designed and made by Albert Paley.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

M. Campbell. ed. Towards A New Iron Age, London, Victoria & Albert Museum, 1982, pp.48, 64, 89, 96. ill. ISBN: 0905209230
Marian Campbell, An Introduction to Ironwork, London HMSO, 1985, p.41 ill. ISBN: 0112904157
Albert Paley, Sculptural Adornment, Washington DC, Smithsonian Institution, Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art, 1991.
Marian Campbell, Decorative Ironwork, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1997, p.28. ill.
Philip Brookman and Caroline Gralton, ed., see Eric Turner, Albert Paley and the American Dream, in American Metal, The Art of Albert Paley, Washington DC, Corcoran Gallery of Art, 2014, pp.18-62. ill. ISBN: 9780886750848.

Production Note

Commissioned by the V&A to coincide with the completion and re-opening of the west wing of the Ironwork Gallery in 1994. The acquisition and transport of the bench were financed by a grant from the United States Government, administered through the United States Information Service, London.

Materials

Steel; Mahogany; Gold

Techniques

Forging (metal forming)

Subjects depicted

Scroll-work

Categories

Images Online; Furniture

Production Type

Unique

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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