Zaha Hadid’s Swirly Furniture (Again)

Another week, another exhibition featuring Zaha Hadid’s swirly, blobby, and cool lacquered-fiberglass furniture . But this latest round, a show sponsored by Rove TV has some gems worth seeing.

This New York show, seen in a few rooms at Sonnabend and in the magnificent recently-vacated garage at 169 10th Avenue, are an excellent catalogue of Where Zaha Hadid Is Going and Where She Has Been. The strength of the show is that the works cover the major categories these furniture/installations/interventions/spaceblobs are exploring, even as they attempt to blur the line between furniture, sculpture, and architecture. The pieces can be generally categorized as freestanding seats, freestanding big chunks, and wall reliefs. Ironically it is the last category where the pieces become less interesting. The fantasy of a seamless piece of material breaks down with the (sometimes ugly and never designed) seams between sections, and frankly, when you’ve seen one wall relief (Relief 1: Domestic) you’ve seen them all (Relief 2: Public). The large installations have potential, either as real buildings (like the Chanel Pavilion, in Central Park at the moment) or as site-inflected structures, but as artifacts in the gallery they just don’t make sense, yet.

The scale of the freestanding big chunks (Belu, which had messy seam joins) suggest that they can be both part of a larger landscape as well as make space in and of themselves. It is the Tony Smith school of landscape architecture, but one that has payoffs with Hadid’s particular forms and process. Stalactites, clusters of big chunks suspended from the ceiling, cuts the gallery space up, guiding traffic, creating eddies to pause in, and with the low lighting in the final installation creates some wonderful shadows. The piece is a step forward in this process.

The freestanding furniture pieces are mostly forgettable, with the powerful exception of Orchis, which like Stalactites capitalizes on its reference to nature, while also freezinginto solids hyperbolic forms that are only made visible by computer. In this case Orchis creates seating that is almost always the same, but always brilliantly different. The forms are always hypertwisted planes, some such that it is difficult to understand how they were made at all. And their leaf-green-metallic color perfectly references them to the leaves and flowers of orchids, while at the same time keeping them on the cutting edge. And now we want more.

Exhibition: Sonnabend Nov. 1 – Dec. 13