Most cabinets serve a simple functional purpose: the containment of smaller objects. Interacting with them requires little more than opening their doors and drawers to find or replace something else, and unless they’re unusually ornate, their presence in the room feels like little more than an afterthought. Artist and designer Sebastian ErraZuriz is hoping to “break the box” of typical cabinet and credenza design with a new series of sculptural pieces meant to challenge our perceptions of how furniture should operate.
Continuing his longtime “Mechanical Cabinet” series, ErraZuriz offers modular furniture that doubles as interactive art. Currently based in New York, the Chilean-born, London-raised artist blends traditional woodworking and technological components with unexpected forms to produce fascinating transforming pieces.
At first glance, many of these cabinets and credenzas just seem like beautiful things to look at; the functionality they have to offer is hidden beneath the complexities at the surface. But once you peel back the layers to reveal what’s underneath, you learn that they are just as usable as any piece that overtly prioritizes function over form.
Seeing the pieces in action is fascinating. Just when you think the object can’t transform any more than it already has, ErraZuriz demonstrates yet another way in which it can blossom like an alien flower. The Magistral Chest looks inhospitably spiked when closed up, protecting drawers full of mysteries at its heart. The Fan Cabinet unfurls like a tropical bird concealing row after row of dazzling feathers beneath an unremarkable exterior. The Grand Complication Cabinet is especially deserving of its name, starting out small and unfolding one component after another. Other cabinets in the collection spin, twist, and even reveal beautiful kaleidoscopic displays.
“Breaking the Box” is a solo presentation of ErraZuriz’s new work, currently on display at New York City’s R & Company gallery. The curators note the mechanical brilliance of the pieces, each of which requires a high level of technical precision to be used to its fullest potential. Other pieces on display at the show include works from ErraZuriz’s “Metamorphosis” series, which feature taxidermy birds from the artist’s native Chilean landscape.
The R & Company website reads: “’Breaking the Box’ presents a curated selection of ErraZuriz’s newest functional sculptures, [which] exemplify his multifaceted practice and evolution as a contemporary artist and designer. The diverse work on view challenges the boundaries between art, design, and technology while inviting the viewer to question their purpose and function. His experimental approach to this new series is seen through the varying materials and stylistic methods he employs. Unified together thematically through their ongoing exploration of nature, humor, life, and death, ErraZuriz encourages viewers to engage and discover the new works in the exhibition.”
Speaking on the project himself, ErraZuriz says: “We tend to understand reality by constraining meaning into closed and simplified boxes defined by previous cultural convention. We live within these pre-established cognitive borders, where we only tend to see, recognize, and accept as true that which has been previously ordered and defined. In ‘Breaking the Box,’ I use art, design, and craft to break open our relationship to objects, function, beauty, and time in order to reconsider conventions.”