Julia Gutman (Brooklyn, NY)
August 2019. Museum Collection Sofa Frame, foam, Museum Collection upholstery fabric, Museum Collection trim, shredded Museum Collection upholstery fabric. 60 x 26 x 53, inches 30 x 28 x 11 inches.

Modernism saw gendered binaries in the sphere of design. Objects were either superfluous or essential; purposeless or functional; sensuous or rational. The movement relinquished ornament, and in a coded sense, femininity, to frills devoid of any motivation beyond their embellishment. Simultaneously and rather ironically, within this sphere of thought, a woman’s worth was defined by her utility to men: she was the ultimate thing to be used.

Gutman became interested in a Museum collection sofa frame as a parallel to this experience. A decorative Queen-Ann reproduction of an object rendered superfluous for its ornate design, despite its utilitarian duty to act as a seat. She empathized with its fate, simultaneously expected to function for others and dismissed on account of its floral curves. It was sitting, unfinished and unupholstered, in the third-floor heap. She wanted to give it room to take up space in a way that it was previously denied without being forced into the subservience initially imagined for it. Gutman reworked the design and reupholstered its flesh so that it might stand tall, imbuing it with a sense of personhood and power. Now, a thing intended for your behind can meet you at eye level. It has been queered – the behind has been flipped to the front. The suggested invitation to use it is a dangerous one – the precarity of balance would seesaw you outwards if you were to attempt to sit down.

Process: