Architect and designer Abby Suckle sounds a tad jealous as she talks about "Against Design," the furniture-as-art exhibition on view through this weekend at the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art (PBICA). She says the show's artists were allowed the opportunity to create in a vacuum, a luxury she didn't enjoy as an associate at Pei Cobb Freed, the firm founded by renowned American (but Chinese-born) architect I.M. Pei.
"Not a lot of pieces [of furniture] come into the world ready to go into an I.M. Pei building," said the New York City resident in a recent phone interview. When Suckle worked for Pei, that meant creating furniture for specific structures. "You wanted to look at the building, not at the chair," she recalls. "The chair needed to be part of the space."
Suckle, whose parents live in Palm Beach, employed a very different approach from that used to create the "Against Design" pieces. She will address both tacks in a September 7 chat at PBICA on furniture design. For example, she notes, "If you're going to design something that's an ergonomic chair, you spend a lot of time thinking about the different sizes of people that are going to use it, requirements for manufacture, for fabric. When you take a furniture-as-art approach, you don't need to think about all of that."
Still, she sees the whimsical nature of removing everyday furniture (including bedroom suites, hanging lamps, and living-room vignettes) from the context of home or work space and showing them in a gallery as a fun experiment in aesthetics.
In her lecture, she'll also discuss her new business, realfurniture.com. She left Pei in December to start the online furniture showroom, which offers classic contemporary designs and its own original line. Comments Suckle: "We're trying to make high-quality design affordable."