Omar Sosa unpacks the nature of comfort in an exhibition at Friedman Benda, NY

A couch made of bread, a sink combined with a toilet seat, and a squished sofa reminiscing a house closed for years are part of Comfort at the Friedman Benda in New York.

by Zohra Khan Published on : Feb 12, 2020

“But I don’t want comfort, I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin.”
- Aldous Huxley

Appears less of a feeling but more like a frozen state of mind - comfort in living - as Ellen H. Richard rightly puts, is far more in the brains than in the back. Exploring the nature of this innate aspect of our lives, Friedman Benda gallery in New York presents its sixth annual guest curated exhibition, titled Comfort.

Curated by New York-based creative director, Omar Sosa, the exhibition brings furniture, sculptures, photographs and paintings by international designers and artists to ‘illustrate the tension that occurs when an object can be physically comfortable, but visually or psychologically uncomfortable, and vice-versa’.

<em>Nº28 Climate confusion </em> by stylists and designers Desirée Heiss and Ines Kaag | Comfort | Friedman Benda | STIRworld
Nº28 Climate confusion by stylists and designers Desirée Heiss and Ines Kaag Image Credit: Daniel Kukla, Courtesy of Friedman Benda
We like to think that our houses are comfortable, we want environment to be so, but what happens when you venture beyond the familiar zone? – Omar Sosa, Curator, Comfort

The exhibition text authored by Pol Esteve Castelló references an experience that vividly articulates the opportunities associated with not the presence of comfort but the lack of it. It describes the liberating experience of philosopher Paul B. Preciado from 2016, when he inhabited a completely empty house in Athens. With no constraints of the ‘material culture of comfort’ to the rescue, the feelings of a stiff body trying to adjust to a wooden floor at night made Preciado question his deepest self: ‘Am I human or animal, from this century or any other one, do I exist or do I only have materiality in fiction’?

Dummy
Couch by John Chamberlain Image Credit: Daniel Kukla, Courtesy of Friedman Benda

Sosa unpacks the nature of comfort by exploring the other side of the spectrum. He brings aesthetically uncomfortable objects that examine comfort from a sensorial perspective, instead of a homogenously physical state. The exhibition involves 27 creatives whose vivid interpretations of comfort lean towards the unfamiliar.

<em>Toilet sink </em> by Guillermo Santomà
Toilet sink by Guillermo Santomà Image Credit: Daniel Kukla, Courtesy of Friedman Benda

American designer Sam Stewart and food artist Laila Gohar have created Loaf, a chair made of bread. Spanish designer Guillermo Santomà brings sculpturesque Toilet sink as a piece cast in porcelain plaster and lime that integrates two independent entities from the bathroom space. Contradictory proportions of seating are revealed in Andrea Branzi’s rare Pigiama Armchair made for the Alchimia’s ba.haus I collection. John Chamberlain brings Couch, a squished sculpture in foam that reminisces a house hidden from sight.

<em> Loaf </em> by Sam Stewart and Laila Gohar  | Comfort | Friedman Benda | STIRworld
Loaf by Sam Stewart and Laila Gohar Image Credit: Brian Ferry, Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Sam Stewart & Laila Gohar (Baked by Millers & Makers)

Some other striking pieces include Japanese designer Isamu Noguchi’s Pierced Seat as a set of galvanised steel chair and table, Nicola L’s monumental Canapé Homme Geant, and a giant hammock named Nº28 Climate confusion by stylists and designers Desirée Heiss and Ines Kaag that rethink pillow and its associated ease.

<em>Canapé Homme Geant </em> by Nicola L
Canapé Homme Geant by Nicola L Image Credit: Daniel Kukla, Courtesy of Friedman Benda

“Comfort is often something that we think is innate but actually it only exists once we experience it,” says Sosa. To heighten this very experience, the products and artworks from the exhibition are set in a room smeared in yellow hue. Visitors walk through the space gazing at the bizarre objects and experiencing all along a slew of feelings that invoke meaningful introspections.

  • <em>Golgotha Chair </em> (left) by Gaetano Pesce, <em>Pierced Seat </em> by Isamu Noguchi | Comfort | Friedman Benda | STIRworld
    From top left: Snarl by Nancy Grossman, Golgotha Chair by Gaetano Pesce, Biri Biri by Michael Anastassiades, Pierced Seat by Isamu NoguchiImage Credit: Daniel Kukla, Courtesy of Friedman Benda
  • Andrea Branzi’s rare Pigiama Armchair made for the Alchimia’s ba.haus I collection | Comfort | Friedman Benda | STIRworld
    Andrea Branzi’s rare Pigiama Armchair made for the Alchimia’s ba.haus I collection Image Credit: Daniel Kukla, Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Andrea Branzi
  • <em> Do Hit Chair </em> by Marijn van der Poll, produced by Droog Design | Comfort | Friedman Benda | STIRworld
    Do Hit Chair by Marijn van der Poll, produced by Droog Design Image Credit: Daniel Kukla, Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Marijn van der Poll

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About Author

Zohra Khan

Zohra Khan

A formal education in architecture combined with an avid interest in architecture journalism and design criticism led Khan to professionally venture into writing and research. She has worked in design communication for more than three years, generating content for mondo*arc india journal. When not writing, she kicks back by dabbling on social media for STIR.

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