2004 • Temple Gallery, Philadelphia, PA • Collaboration with Tyler School of Art and Students

Wood, steel, paint. Various sizes.

Buster Simpson, an artist based in Seattle who is well known in the United States and in Europe for his work in public spaces, has designed this workshop project for the production of chairs from recycled wooden pallets in collaboration with Tyler School of Art students. During the first week of the exhibition, the gallery was turned into a workshop, with Simpson building “Philadelphia stick pallet Windsor” chairs from recycled pallet wood with student assistants. Following Simpson’s residency, the gallery provides a showroom for the pallet Windsors as well as some materials that reference the design and construction processes. The exhibition also features images and documents of some of his earlier projects that relate to public sites and seating, public discourse, and agit prop. 

Each pallet Windsor represents a stage in the morphing--or amalgamation--of pallet to chair. Windsor chairs were ubiquitous--as Simpson says, “the most democratic of chairs.” They produced throughout the thirteen original colonies that sent representatives to sign the Declaration of Independence, and a broad range of stylistic interpretation developed through regional and individual variations; Philadelphia was an important center of “Philadelphia stick” Windsor chair production. 

The transformation of Temple Gallery from traditional presentation space to workshop and showroom manifested the cycle of production and consumption that was initiated with the use of wooden pallets as raw material. The original idea for the pallet Windsors was derived from the Windsor chairs depicted in the popular engraving by Edward Savage of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Simpson is interested in the chairs as symbols of individual participation in democratic process; in 2000 he had proposed a set of cast bronze Windsor chairs to be placed in the historic grove on Independence Mall, and this project extends his original intentions, offering the pallet Windsors as places for citizens to rest, talk and debate during this political season. Appropriately, various components for the pallet Windsors feature imagery and language that references current political characters and events.  

Simpson, whose projects often include sly word play, sees the pallet as a “plinth of consumerism” which will be, in the process of its transformation into public seating, “retrofitted for the ‘necessity of the public good.’” Simpson has taken this phrase, his title for the project, directly from the Declaration of Independence. It and other words and phrases from the Declaration have also been applied to some of the pallet/chairs.

This project has been organized by Temple Gallery with the sponsorship of Art Works in Different Spaces, a project of the Tyler School of Art and Providence Productions. 

We would like to thank Jude Tallischet, professor at Tyler School of Art, and her students; the Wood Turning Center and Albert Lecoff, Director; the John Grass Wood Turning Shop; and Crane Arts LLC for their generous contributions to the organization of the project. 

© 2004 Buster Simpson

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