Sunday, May 10, 2009

Jack Rogers Hopkins

I saw this chair at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston a couple of years ago and thought it was pretty cool... I wondered how it had been done. I wrote down the name of the artist, Jack Rogers Hopkins, but never read anything more about him (until now).

Edition Chair, 1970. Honduras mahogany, 28 x 54 x 28 in. Created in Spring Valley, CA

The chair, which is in the MFA's permanent collection, was originally shown there as part of a 2003 exhibit, "The Maker's Hand: American Studio Furniture 1940-1990". This was the last exhibit of any of Hopkins' work.

Here's some biographical information on Hopkins from the antique dealer Todd Merrill:

Hopkins (1920 –2006) was part of a California-based design movement in the late 60s that introduced more sculptural and free-flowing elements into furniture design. He grew up in Bakersfield, California, and as a young boy learned to make toys in his father’s wood shop, the Sierra Furniture Manufacturing. Co. After WWII, Hopkins attended the California College of Arts and Crafts, where he studied painting and drawing. After graduating in 1950, Hopkins earned his MFA from the Claremont Colleges, and in 1960 he began teaching in the art department at San Diego State University, where he remained an influential teacher until his retirement in 1991.

Hopkins started out as a painter, then experimented with jewelry and ceramics. He began working in wood around 1965, and completed his first furniture piece, a combination chair and coffee table, in 1966. He continued to produce furniture pieces, all of which were one of a kind, with the exception of the Edition chair, first created in 1969. He usually worked with hardwoods such as black walnut, cherry, Honduras mahogany, maple, rosewood, and teak. He also used Finnish birch plywood and veneers, and occasionally oak. Hopkins often combined various woods into a single piece so the different grains created a dynamic color pattern and form.

Another piece:

Rocking Chair, circa 1970-1979
Laminated walnut, 37 in. high

Hopkins is included in a survey of 26 furniture makers, designers, and decorators called "Modern Americana: Studio Furniture from High Craft to High Glam" (Rizzoli, 2008). In a blurb about the book, Merrill writes that although some members of the studio furniture movement are well known, such as George Nakashima and Paul Evans, others (like Hopkins) remain obscure, despite their pioneering contributions.

"This is the only undocumented period left in American furniture," said Merrill. "You could graduate from any design school in the country and you might not know who the biggest furniture designers were 20 years ago. They've just vanished."

Well, the Hopkins chair above is not so obscure that it didn't make it onto the list of 99 strangest chairs. Here's a sample, the 'Fat Eames Chair':

1 comment:

Squerl said...

Ha Ha the fat Eames chair is great. Laura