The Kingdom of Stools

Dung Ngo


“Alice looked all round her at the flowers and the blades of grass... There was a large mushroom growing near her, about the same height as herself; and when she had looked under it, and on both sides of it, and behind it, it occurred to her that she might as well look and see what was on the top of it. 

She stretched herself up on tiptoe, and peeped over the edge of the mushroom, and her eyes immediately met those of a large caterpillar that was sitting on the top with its arms folded, quietly smoking a long hookah, and taking not the smallest notice of her or of anything else.”

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, 1865

Away from the bright light, they can be found tucked in the underbrush of the sea of legs and moving blankets. Short and often unassuming, they tend to thrive in this thicket environment, somewhat dark and low to ground. Those that can be identified have fanciful names like Rooster, Butterfly, Pirkka, and Fjord, but many are considered 'wild' and still to be classified, having yet to be designated a proper genus. 

I am speaking, of course, not of mushrooms on a forest floor but the stools that have been gathered for this exhibition from Joel Chen's vast furniture warehouses. One hundred and eighteen, to be exact—an edited but still sprawling sampling of this most primordial of furniture type. 

Carlo Mollino

As a child, Carlo Mollino was smitten by the engineering work of his father and his infatuation led him to the study of constructional engineering and architecture at the University of Turin. After graduating, Mollino worked at his father’s studio before founding his own architectural and interior design practice run out of the same space. He built several famed structures including the Società Ippica Torinese (1937-40, now destroyed), Casa del Sole, Cervinia (1947-54) and the Teatro Regio Torino (1965-73) as well as several private homes and apartments.

Aside from architecture and interior design, Mollino possessed a love of race cars; he created sweptback cars for himself to race and even set a record at Le Mans that remained unbroken for two years. An expert skier obsessed with aerodynamics and clean lines, Mollino wrote a book on the subject. Not only did he love speed and the sleek bodies of automobiles but the voluptuous curves of the female form inspired a series of erotic photographs featuring nude models on and around his own furniture designs. The idealized female form and aerodynamics motivated his design aesthetic, curved backs, slim ankles, and hourglass shapes abound in his furniture designs. Moving away from the austerity of the Modernist movement, Mollino imbued his furniture with a sense of the feminine and the surreal.

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