Balance and Tension

Radiata Wall Shelf

Balance and Tension

The Furniture of Seth Rolland

Balance and Tension

In 2014, Seth Rolland won the John and Joyce Price Award of Excellence for his work in BAM Biennial 2014: Knock on Wood. This award granted Rolland the opportunity to hold a solo exhibition at Bellevue Arts Museum in celebration of his craft.

Rolland is a craftsman in the purest sense—someone who thinks and communicates with his hands. His singular mastery of the kerfing technique is possibly the most distinctive element of his work. Traditionally used by luthiers to bend the lining of string instruments, kerfing is, in simple terms, the act of making a series of closely placed cuts in a piece of wood so that the material can be curved. Rolland pushes this technique against the grain of the expected. Long cuts executed with extreme precision allow for a single block of wood to be expanded—not unlike an accordion—in several directions at once. The results are mind-bending. The wood beam, a supporting structural element traditionally known for its qualities of solidity and rigidity, is fanned out, taking on complex geometrical shapes. Rolland's insistence on forthrightly revealing how his furniture is built turns structure into art. Intricate at first glance, his furniture is in fact ingenuously simple and sparingly ornamental, riffing on the modernist creed of 'less is more.'

A perceptive observer of shape and structure, Rolland finds inspiration for his remarkable furniture in the architecture of the natural world. He distills nature's complexity, reducing it to its defining elements, which are then suggested in his furniture—geological formations slowly carved by the flow of water, the numerous and swarming legs on an insect, the growth pattern of tree roots, and the heft of cobbles on the beach, all converging to inform his designs. In exploring and resolving physical as well as visual tensions, Seth Rolland achieves balance between the craftsman's fetishism of skill and the designer's preoccupations with form and function. In this ebb and flow between inspiration from the organic and the architectural, the natural and the man-made, Rolland's work captures beauty in its purest form.

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Exhibition Credit

Balance and Tension: The Furniture of Seth Rolland is organized by Bellevue Arts Museum and curated by Stefano Catalani.