My initial glance at Kenneth Smythe’s Synergistic Synthesis XVII Sub B1 and IPOP chairs put me in mind of Edward Scissorhands. That’s not to say that artist/designer Smythe has creationist aspirations, only that his celebratory geometry of elemental forms evokes the patchwork nature of the doomed Edward, right down to his strapped together torso and herky-jerky locomotion. Though perhaps this comparison is unwarranted, as Smythe’s chairs might very well move with the precision of a Prussian clockworks—or perhaps not at all.
Synergistic Synthesis XVII Sub B1 Chair. Designed by Kenneth Smythe.
Design at the Intersection of Art and Nature
I’ll confess that the latter scenario would sadden me a bit, since both of Smyth’s ambitious forays look like they should move, in fact appear as if they would transport themselves all about a given room, or even beyond it, should their inherent spontaneity and improvisation provoke such ambulatory joie de vivre. But beyond fantastical formulations of the chairs’ presumed volition, we’re left to ponder the aesthetic, which I’d characterize as a kind of playful vintage Modern structuralism. Indeed, if van der Rohe had sanctioned embellishment of a structure’s individual elements, he’d have found both Synthesis and IPOP quite irresistible (Mondrian might have admired them too).
But these pieces are not only interrogations of Bauhausian strictures, nor just carefully considered assemblages of finn birch laminate, formica colorcore, leather, steel, and maple, but rather full scale explorations into the utility of natural laws. Both pieces “originate from evolutionary models… Smyth’s furniture designs are essential forms derived from complex theories of nature” (Daily Icon). Exactly which theories Smythe has interpolated into these imaginative pieces remains unsaid, and that’s perhaps for the best, as it lets both Synergistic Synthesis and IPOP assert their own inexorable and unassailably fantastical decrees.