In the Round
There is a story in Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, concerning a Pope who searched Italy for the finest painter in the land. When his emissary met Giotto, he asked for proof of the famed artist’s abilities. “Fixing his arm firmly against his side to make a compass of it,” Vasari relates, Giotto “with a turn of his hand made a circle so perfect that it was a marvel to see.” He then handed it to the courtier, who asked, “Am I to have no other drawing than this?” “This is enough and too much,” is the reply. “See if it will be understood.” The Pope does indeed marvel at this demonstration of skill, and summons Giotto to court forthwith. The story captures two Renaissance ideals — the myth of genius and the perfection of geometry — all at once.
The tale is also a fitting entry point to this trio of objects, all of which skillfully unite the mathematical and the material. Kwangho Lee’s Red Orange Chair is a composition of faceted cylinders in enamel and wood. Atop a columnar base, a seat and back of identical cross-section meet at a right angle. It could be a diagram out of Euclid’s Elements, but for the subtle play of pigment and finish across the surfaces. Jaime Hayon’s Cheeky mirror is more playful, but equally based in primary geometries — overlapping ellipses and circles. It could be read as a face (of a person, or perhaps a monkey), but that motif is much more explicit in other objects from Hayon’s ChromaticO collection. Here, the dominant impression is not of cartoonish animation, but tight orchestration.
Faye Toogood’s Roly-Poly Chair, another symphony of curves, is widely celebrated for introducing a new aesthetic into cutting-edge design — supple, approachable, one might even say cuddly. What elevates it to the status of a classic is the precise calibration of its shape. It too stands on perfect cylinders, while the seat widens more idiosyncratically and generously to a full lip. The particular version seen here, from Toogood’s Assemblage 5 collection, is fabricated in cast bronze with a silver nitrate finish. This unusual material choice was inspired by the idea of the moon, another sphere, offering its illumination from above.