BWW Reviews: John Cederquist Shapes ILLUSIONS IN WOOD
Illusion took center stage in the San Diego area last weekend when Orange County-based master craftsman John Cederquist brought his unique wood pieces to the small but pristine jewel known as the Cannon Gallery in Carlsbad.
Known for obscuring the distinctions between reality and illusion, Cederquist merges two-dimensional inlaid images with three-dimensional furniture forms. With spirited trompe l'oeil plays on dimension, Cederquist fools the eye and delights the visual senses: imaginative pieces vividly depict what appears to be Japanese cuisine on a tray; Disneyesque "Mickey Mouse hands" seem to paint and plane wooden boards (a band aid on one provides a humorous wink to long-suffering furniture makers) with dynamic motion; Japanese wood kimonos, often functioning as chairs and peppered with World War II airplanes, ironically used "Peace" symbols, and symbolic kanji, appear as fabric. Furniture-meets-kimono - "Kimono to Go" - is also highly functional: front panels open to reveal a cabinet door with pullout drawers decorated with airplane cutouts, giving the pieces a childlike quality.
"The kimono pieces were inspired by a book a friend gave me, a little pamphlet," Cederquist confides. "It's a catalogue for a show called 'Wearing Propaganda,' about pre-World War II and World War II garments. A majority of it was Japanese clothing, a lot of kimonos, and how they used it as propaganda. A lot of it had airplanes, sort of naïve images, sometimes almost cartoon-like, and I enjoy cartoons. What I did was try to give it a backstory. That one (points) has a big kanji that says, 'Heavenly Victory.' It had a lot to do with the relationship between the Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor and the Iraq War, and how they're not dissimilar. Both countries really suffered for starting the wars. Heavenly Victory had a lot to do with the banner in back of Bush that said, 'Mission Accomplished.' That's one of the reasons I started putting them (the kanji) on all of them. The irony sounded to me like a very Japanese thing. The Japanese were very aggressive between about '36 and the start of the war. A lot of the kimonos were very much about propaganda. I concentrated on the airplanes because I really like airplanes."
He adds, "I do this in wood because that's my technique. On my website http://www.johncederquist.com/john_cederquist/Text_page.html you'll see a lot of kimonos that are prior to this - this is the third session of them. The first two were those I saw at the LA County Museum that you can look up in the book When Art Became Fashion. I saw in this book that the kimono had contemporary imagery on it, and I set off to start doing another series. There are actually a total of seventeen of these kimonos hanging around. I call these kimonos now, but prior to World War I they were actually called kosode, which literally translated means 'small sleeve.'"
Cederquist says bleaching and dyeing the wood produces the intense color that makes it stop being wood and look like whatever he desires it to be, and drawing right on the wood gets directly turned into an image that can "fool the eye" if the perspective is gotten right. He leaves a one-fourth inch "valley" in the wood, adds epoxy, sands, smoothes, and then stains. The appearance is exquisitely pristine. The "Kimono to Go" cabinets are made of two kinds of wood. The very linear cabinet part is fashioned of Sitka spruce, which lends itself to establishing perspective; the kimono itself is made of Pacific Northwest maple, a relatively soft wood with a silk-like quality, with lots of grain configuration that lends itself to bleaching and staining. The flat kimono and cabinet that has perspective to it combine two different types of perspective within one piece, giving the image a surreal quality, and freeing up the boards from the problem of gravity to give them the illusion of floating in space.
Cannon Gallery Curator of Exhibitions Karen McGuire, whose outstanding work has become well known and widely appreciated in the Carlsbad community, is thrilled to bring Cederquist and his work here. "We are so excited to have John Cederquist here in our city," McGuire says. "John is an artist I've known about for about twenty years. He's probably considered one of the top one hundred furniture makers and craftsmen in the United States, so to have him with us here in Carlsbad is something really wonderful to bring to the community. Exquisite craftsmanship, museum quality, a wonderful introduction to his work here."
Judging from the ample crowd attending the opening reception at this gem of a gallery space, McGuire's current contribution to the cultural life of this vibrant coastal town north of San Diego remains much valued among the Cannon Gallery's patrons and aficionados.
"John Cederquist: Illusions in Wood" will exhibit at the Cannon Gallery http://www.carlsbadca.gov/services/departments/cultural/pages/william-d-cannon-art-gallery.aspx from March 30 - May 25.