Brooklyn-based Bower Studios‘ limited edition Melt Chair (now in concrete and chrome-plated brass, after an initial marble and antique brass release) defies expectation. It does so by rising up at the juncture of art and design, function and observation, and even perception and reality. These contrasts—and the more obvious dialogue between its sets of materials—overlap into an imaginative, expressive representation of a chair that’s greater than its parts.
“The Melt Chair was originally designed and made as a one-of-a-kind piece for The Chair, an exhibition by The Future Perfect of 50 chairs by an international group of artists and designers,” says Bower co-founder and design director Danny Giannella. Bower worked off the esteemed design gallery’s brief to conceive their own interpretation of a chair—one that captured the essence of who they were as a studio. Thus, the Melt Chair came to life—a cerebral study of self-reflection turned into an eye-catching item.
“Playing with perception has always been a theme for us,” Giannella continues. “Whether it’s the perception of depth and dimension that we’ve explored with our mirrors, or perceived materiality expressed the Melt Chair. It’s the idea of giving a material with a set of traits the ability to feel like a different material with an opposing set of traits—simply by the way it’s formed and interacts with other objects.”
Bower applied their perception-shifting ambition to a photograph of an ancient Egyptian chair. “We came across this image of the Statue of a Seated Isis (circa ~ 650BC) and were struck by the chair,” Giannella says. “We loved how the cushion draped over the back. This led us to thinking about the line between representational sculpture and ‘real’ objects. We wanted to play in that space and intentionally create a functional piece that had used representative form in ways mostly found in non-functional sculptures. This also seemed to elevate it into something more than just a chair.”
Leveraging contrast allows the chair’s design language to proclaim its function while toying with expectation. “The base of the Melt Chair is a grounding device; it looks and acts as expected,” Giannella says, noting that this is the case regardless of an aged patina or slick finish. “This sets us up to play with the perception of the top. We used marble and concrete… materials that also have expected traits. But in forming them as we did around the metal base, they’re perceived to have quite opposite characteristics from the materials they’re made of.” Giannella likens the illusion of visual softness and layering to soft-serve ice cream.
“The different material and finish choices of the two versions were explorations of old, historical, natural materials versus modern, slick, clean materials,” Giannella concludes. “Both achieve the same surprise of perception, but with different aesthetics.” Bower will continue to explore finish options and material alternatives, though any complete piece will be kept to an edition of 20. Price is available upon request.
Images courtesy of Bower Studios