January 29 to June 10, 2012
Roy McMakin's interest in furniture began at age thirteen when he purchased his first piece—a Stickley desk. This passion led to a three-decade-long career where he has consistently questioned the categorization of man-made objects and our relationship with them. Besides furniture, the artist's practice has embraced sculpture, architecture, painting, design, and photography, among other things—all distinctions that are in some way secondary to McMakin's main concern of being what he considers a "philosopher of visual experience."
For The Aldrich, McMakin altered eight pieces of furniture that he lived with while growing up. Following the passing of his parents (his mother died in 2005 and his father in 2009) he went through the difficult process of retrieving his childhood furniture collection from his relatives. In 2011 he decided that by utilizing the objects in some manner he would both engage the deep nostalgia he felt for them as well as ensure their continued existence. The title of the exhibition refers not only to McMakin being the middle of three children, but also to the unifying strategy that tempered his approach to working with each piece. The eight pieces of furniture in Middle have all been carefully trisected, resulting in a group of objects that exhibit a spectrum from total disability to complete functionality. It might seem counterintuitive that radically altering something could act to preserve it, but what's being preserved in this case is not each piece of furniture's outward form, but rather its emotional reality in the context of a human life. Two paintings that McMakin did as a teenager are also included in the exhibition, revealing the early influence of the Arts and Crafts movement—an interest that informs his work to the present day.
McMakin has had one-person exhibitions at the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Portland Art Museum, Oregon. This is his first solo museum exhibition on the east coast.
Top of page: Roy McMakin,The first piece of furniture I bought (which was painted red when I found it), 2011
Courtesy of the artist