October 12, 2014


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Lot 244: Roy McMakin

Lot 244: Roy McMakin

Cove tables (2)

Designed c. 1990
Domestic Furniture Co.
Each: 20" x 19" x 19"
Literature: McMakin, Roy. Domestic Furniture Co. Furniture Catalogue. San Diego: Commercial Press, 1988. np.
Estimate: $1,500 - $2,000
Price Realized: $1,500
Inventory Id: 16244

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Artist and designer Roy McMakin (b. 1956) dissolves the border between art and utilitarian object in his custom-made and small-batch furniture collections. In the 1980s, McMakin owned a bustling showroom called Domestic Furniture on Beverly Boulevard, where he attracted customers such as artist John Baldessari, and Lisa Eisner, former fashion editor at Vogue and Mademoiselle. The Unique desk (c. 1986) was the center of business at the showroom. The design is straightforward, yet its details are delightful to observe and experience. McMakin painted the rectangular desk a saturated blue, leaving unpainted areas which demarcated where office supplies such as notepads and folders might be placed. The permanently raised drawer is where the Domestic Furniture catalogue would be displayed.

McMakin's playful approach to designing furniture is underpinned by a conceptualism absorbed from his studies at the UCSD with avant-garde artists such as Allan Kaprow and Eleanor Antin. Other important influences include Hard Edge painter John McLaughlin, whose impact can be seen in the Unique desk, American architect Irving Gill, and the Art and Crafts movement. His designs subtly manipulate scale and dimension to create furniture that is meant to be noticed, and never taken for granted—a knob much too big for its drawer, or a tiny ottoman paired with an overstuffed lounge chair, for example. There is an undeniable sense of wit and whimsy in his work.

For the Wing armchair (1989), McMakin played with the lines and proportions of the prototypical upholstered armchair to create a charming lounger that approaches the anthropomorphic. The side panels of the chair back swell out at an angle, resembling wings or ears. The arms extend out, as if to meet the sitter's tired arms halfway at the end of a long day. The first McMakin piece that Baldessari acquired was a chair identical to the Wing armchair, rendered in blue fabric. Baldessari recalls of his first time at the Domestic Furniture showroom: "I instantly fell in love with a large blue upholstered armchair. [ …] That was when my addiction began." McMakin would go on to create an extra-large custom bed for the six-foot-seven artist, and a made-to-order dining table and chairs, among other commissions and orders.

McMakin's sense of visual play and punning enlivens the Fecund sofa (1988), featuring a plush seat cushion emblazoned with embroidered letters spelling out the word "fecund." The item was a custom order for Eisner, an influential fashion personality and frequent shopper at Domestic Architecture. With its overstuffed cushion and chaise lounge form, the sofa encourages a languid pose and alludes to female sensuality, fullness, and richness. The sofa also obliquely refers to Eisner's brimming family life and career, as she has been noted for inspiring icons and designers including Madonna, Tom Ford, and Isaac Mizrahi.

In an apropos nod to the humor that McMakin utilized in his own work, he was asked to design the set for "The Tonight Show," hosted by comedian Jay Leno in the 1990s. Eventually, McMakin was asked by clients to overhaul interiors and remodel or design entire homes. In 2003, McMakin's impressive body of work and career trajectory was traced in an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Examples of his innovative pieces can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Darling, Michael. Roy McMakin: A Door Meant as Ornament. Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2003. Print.
McMakin, Roy, et al. Roy McMakin, When is a chair not a chair? New York Skira/Rizzoli, Matthew Marks Gallery, 2010. Print.