Photo 13

Sadly this show has already closed, but it was a blast while it was up.  There was a great irony between this show at Step Gallery and the Architecture woodshop next door.  In her own words:

I have put together this exhibit as a way to explore relationships between work and play. This space is filled with many Unit Block sets modeled after the “Standard Unit Block” principle developed by educator Caroline Pratt in the early 1900’s. Caroline Pratt expressed the ideas of Friedrich Froebel who believed that open-ended materials provided children with endless opportunities to represent their world.

As a way to identify the different ways children and adults construct spaces and experience material I am inviting you to play with the work no matter what your age is. Play is commonly defined as a frivolous and non-serious activity but I have found that play does not always come easy and it never comes without work. Please use your time in the space to observe, touch, and construct as a way to reconnect with imaginative play.


This shows is unique in how it allows viewer involvement in the physical presentation of the work without being performative.  Another nice aspect of the show is how it presents wood and play without being whimsical.  There’s real saw dust, and blocks, and plywood tool shapes, and sure it’s funny, but it’s obvious, too.  Everything is rough around the edges; nothing is hidden with fancy joinery or expensive materials.  The show asks the question: what if this were true?  I don’t know what happened in the 80’s with the studio furniture movement that resulted in whimsy, maybe something about breaking traditions, but I’m glad it’s passing.  There’s just something contradictory about whimsical fine furniture…

But I digress.  So, besides writing “Get some” on the top of Richards’ show cards, what else is there?

In addition to the big block display, Richards made little blocks that resemble contemporary building materials like brick, concrete, and fiberglass insulation.  Each set has it’s own plinth built from the actual hardware material.  To me, this is the most interesting part of the project because it directly links the adult building mentality with the child’s play mentality.  The show is immediately comprehensible to everyone, young and old, which I believe was the goal, so good job Richards.


Photos courtesy of Ellie Richards.