As regular as rain in its re-visitings/re-issuings of the enduring icons of modernity, the design world is forever obsessed with its seminal classics. Here at 3rings we enjoy these periodic historical celebrations as much as anyone, believing it does a body good to recall that the Eames Lounger, for instance, inspired generations of designers to aim for clean lines and elegant simplicity; or that the Party Lounge taught us a thing or two about multi-use pieces.
Contour Rocker. Designed by Vladimir Kagan.
But it doesn’t end with Kiesler and Eames. The short list of classics we’ve paid homage to includes work by Walter Pabst, Edward Tuttle, Alvar Aalto, and Henrik Thor-Larsen. Today, it’s my great honor and privilege to add another luminary to this growing pantheon: German-American wunderkind Vladimir Kagan and his inspired Contour Rocker.
Kagan got his start at East End avenue and 81st. st., under the able tutelage of his father, Master Cabinet Maker Illi Kagan. Combine this early appreciation for the beauty of wood with a budding interest in architecture (he attended Columbia) and a studied immersion in the trends of the era, and you have the makings of a singular talent, whose “fascination with organic shapes into furniture catapulted him to the forefront of modern design” (New York Spaces). It’s exactly this incorporation of nature’s curves that lends the Contour Rocker, its—well—contours, the lengthy, languorous, serpentine, and synergistic single expanse of walnut forming a frame the likes of which had not been seen before.
Kagan perhaps does not have the reputation of an Eames, but in some ways that’s fitting, since his designs reached a bit beyond the Eamesian geometricity for a borderline-bizarre elongation that may not have appealed to everyone but certainly generated a cult following. At 82 years young, Kagan has re-emerged on the scene in a big way. His rocker was recently exhibited in Los Angeles at the Ralph Pucci Gallery, and a crewel upholstered version of the same (by needlework artist Erica Wilson) fetched $10,000 recently at auction.
Now I’m not sure I’d fork over that much (even if I had the means), but Kagan’s lovely, sculpted, and eminently functional Rocker belongs in the new milieu of this new millennium to be sure. After all, “relaxation in the truest sense is the reward when seated in this amazingly designed chair… the sleek curves of the seat and back combine to provide maximum comfort.” I don’t doubt it for a second.