Maloof started out in the early 1950s, and this show presented examples of his work from private collections through 1985. Below are my favorite pieces from the show, presented in roughly chronological order, which is the order in which they were displayed in the exhibit.
I like this chair for its simplicity, low proportions, and the unexpected, fun shape of the rear legs. It makes me want to do something similar in steel as a study piece.
Templates + Patterns
There was a whole wall of templates, patterns, and unfinished fragments.
Cork Top Desk
This piece was interesting in the way Maloof used contrasting wood to emphasize the joinery. The foot detail was on the chair to the left of the desk. Unfortunately, I failed to get a picture of the chair.
Maloof made furniture that looked great from any angle, and this piece is a good example of that. I also like the low-set buttons on the back cushion. Notice how the cushion thickens towards the bottom, providing lumbar support.
This was a prototype that he made for a commission. He saved the prototype for himself. Notice how the concentric rings of the grain on the back are centered. The attention to that level of detail is astounding in these works.
Again, notice how the wood is carefully selected and placed, so that the center of the wood grain pattern is at the center of the back.
This is the first rocker that Maloof made; it dates from the late 1960s, and he made it for his wife. The rocking chair would become one of his signature pieces. Again, notice the proportion of the back pillow, for lumbar support.
This was a later rocker, from the 1980s, also made for his wife. Here, the lumbar support is provided by the shaping of the wood slats in the back.
One of the last pieces displayed is an armchair version, similar in style to his signature rocker.
I love how you can observe the evolution of his personal style when you look at the arc of the whole show. The early string chair, while certainly unique, has a much more rigid, angular geometry, whereas the later pieces show a much different, and more personal, style. The string chair looks very Mid-century Modern in style, but the late rocker and armchair are pure Sam Maloof.
Maloof passed away in 2009; he would have been 96 today. I delayed this post until today, so we could have another Birthdays-of-the-Great-Ones celebration here at CofP. I've been adding names and birthdays to the Birthdays of the Great Ones Calendar, and want to do a lot more of them in 2012.
The exhibition The House that Sam Built, Sam Maloof and Art in the Pomona Valley, 1945-1985 runs through January 30, 2012 at the Huntington.
Check it out if you can, and get inspired.