By on June 6th, 2012

Allegory by Maskull Lasserre   (steel, wood, textile, industrial sewing machine)      via his website

This arresting work by Canadian artist Maskull Lasserre is titled Allegory.  My left-leaning brain was sure it was an allegory of sweat-shop garment workers rising up in wrath.  Oops.  Lesson A in just how slippery the word allegory can get.

To start off, the piece was commissioned by Lacoste — they sought a work that incorporated some of their polos.  I want to admit that the Lacoste company has raised my esteem of corporation mentality several notches.   This is one hell of a work to OK — all praise to them for their aesthetic guts.

Allegory.  In Lasserre’s words, “There was something analogous about how textiles were stitched together from a pattern, and how the crocodile head was welded out of small pieces of formed sheet steel.”   Lasserre minored in philosophy in college so he must be aware of the odd fit that Allegory makes for this piece.  But Analogy hardly works for a sculpture that’s mythic.  Inexplicable, logic-twisting, masterful.

Now add in the fact that part of the crocodile’s snout isn’t steel at all — it’s carved from the wooden sewing table and nipped out of the polos.   He meant to combine both the additive and subtractive techniques of sculpture in a single form.  Or flip side: to see the crocodile’s steely muscled toothy mass continue on into the absence taken from the wood and shirts.  This is true to Lasserre’s vision of a reality beyond easy semblances.  And it complexifies the meaning, squares it, cubes it.

Compare Lasserre’s message, which can’t be fully articulated, with the vanitas stillife, a macabre niche of historical allegory.  Each object on the table below has a meaning, embodies a meaning, the skull the impermanence of human life, books the impermanence of human knowledge, purple silk the fleeting good of luxury.  The illuminated void of nearly half the painting is spirituality forevermore.  In the 1600s if you couldn’t decode this painting you were seriously out of touch.

I respect the Lasserre Allegory because it leaves us to find — or feel — a meaning in ourselves.

An Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life by Harmen Steenwyck     via

After the doctrinaire vanitas here’s a renowned allegory of Earth’s life cycle — Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera.  Spring.  The ongoing rush of awakening life.

Here again is the slithery nature of allegory.  We all seem to agree that Spring is depicted (though I’m not clear that Botticelli named it that), but a host of would-be scholars have each seen something else depicted and have laid out evidence for their views.

I think that you can circle details, draw arrows, link this with that over there, but you can’t prove a thing.  At least if we’re talking allegory — Botticelli’s reasons were buried 600 years ago.   He cannot have been immune to the thoughts and happenings of his day, but whether he painted a detail with allegorical intent (skull in a vanitas) is not accesable to research.  Scholars like all the rest of us project some of the meanings they detect.

Primavera by Sandro Botticelli     via 

I want to return now to Lasserre’s art via this ravishing detail by Botticelli.  Stop and feast on the skill — the hair, skin, diaphanous draperies.  Botticelli’s mastery of paint.  I also admire Lasserre’s skills in sculpture.

Primavera detail via Living in the Lot

While I don’t argue for Lasserre’s Botticellihood, what follows here will give you an idea of his skill and inventiveness with materials.  This is as close as I can get us to steel crocodile teeth, that voracious lunging mouth.  Expressive, impressive, convincing.

Allegory (detail) by Maskull Lasserre       via his website

Migration (detail) by Maskull Lasserre        bird wing bones carved into wooden coat hangers


Three stages of Lasserre’s Murder            wood, carved and burned


Lasserre’s Secret Carpentry (two details)        carved axe


Self Doubt (Macaque) by Lasserre        carved plywood plinth, Bell jar

Is this a vanitas?  Or something more, less, Other?  I crave more pith, more myth than I can get with Schoolmarm Allegory intoning what’s what.


go further:

Maskull Lasserre



By on May 18th, 2012

both chest and lamp by Paulo Gouveia

Useful objects inspired by animals?  Too often cutsie-pie affronts to adult taste.  But not the furniture we’ll look at today.

Above is a rooster lamp that swaggers — a wonderful creation by the Portuguese furniture designer Paulo Gouveia.  I asked him why he chose a rooster.  His idea was to use a Portuguese cultural symbol and “give it a new posture and function.”  There are plenty of tourist trade renditions of the Portugallus, a folksy rambunctious-looking cock. Gouveia has transformed it with wit and vision.  This is a lamp that may wisecrack if your guests get boring.

Gouveia used metal to “transmit elegance and visual lightness.”  With metal he’s made a gestural study of a rooster alive and strutting.  A sculptor’s job.  I hope he turns his fine eye for animal expressiveness to more forms.

Claude & Francois-Xavier Lalanne created a menagerie of gorgeous animal-themed furniture pieces.  Yves St. Laurent was among their collectors.  They made several versions of the massive rhinoceros desk.  Here also are their ibis lamps standing serenely.

desk by Claude & Francois-Xavier Lalanne, photo via Aestheticus Rex

Lalanne ibis lamps via LiveJournal

Maximo Riera is creating a series of chairs with what he hopes are anatomically perfect renditions of animals.  Scott Younker says the chairs are “created using a CNC milling machine … computer controlled mills that can move the spindle vertically along the Z-axis.”  They produce a “series of forms cut from foam blocks and placed on an internal steel form. The final chair is envoloped in fine leather, allowing for detail refinement.”  I’m not clear why these are seating but they are magnificent.

rhinoceros chair by  by Maximo Riera via

octopus chair by  by Maximo Riera via NOTCOT

And finally a small herd of seats by Fredrik Farg.  Farg says that the pieces are wrapped in textile and leather,  had ropes tied around them then baked. When the rope is cut it leaves “a pattern without seams, as brutal as it is sophisticated and refined.”  I find both whimsy and biological truth here.

Succession seating by Fredrik Farg (two views)



Correction: This blog first posted with Paolo Gouveia’s name misspelled as Gouvela.  The text above has now been corrected, with many apologies to Paolo.