Charles O. Perry – A Personal Discovery

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Continuum, 1976, bronze, National Air and Space Museum WASHINGTON, D.C.

On a recent trip to Washington D.C., I visited the National Air and Space Museum and was reintroduced to the sculpture Continuum, just outside the Museum’s entrance.  Charles O. Perry’s most prominent work, Continuum, reflects Perry’s desire to explore the paradoxes and enigmas posed by scientific discovery and at the same time, express the solemn beauty of scientific ideas and the attendant quest for knowledge like I was reminded that he was the same sculptor who created The Ram in Costa Mesa; the brightly colored yellow sculpture across from the Westin Hotel at South Coast Plaza well known to most visitors visiting the area.

Perhaps little known to even the most sophisticated art viewer in Orange County is the range and expansive inventiveness of the sculptor. The Ram as its title suggests, was inspired by animal horns, but the idea dramatically turns into the realm of abstraction by referencing the Möbius Strip forms of science and nature, more easily comprehended in Continuum. Perry presents reminders that a topological form retains its essential character—in this case, its one-sidedness—no matter how much the figure is deformed, just as long as it isn’t punctured or torn. Such infinite flexibility offers a vast playground for creative reconfiguration of an intriguing shape.

The most extraordinary surprise was my discovery of Perry’s chair designs. Ubiquitous and popular today, the stacking chair is a sample of form and functional design, combined into a beautiful object. One of the very first lesson one is given in an architectural design class is to build a chair. Everything good in design evolves from the seemingly simple yet highly important functional form.

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The seat is suspended from the lower back, so the occupant’s weight perfectly counterbalances the tilting pressure on the backrest.

The Perry Stack Chair is the only articulating chair that allows the stacking of arms and armless, upholstered and non-upholstered chairs all in the same column, up to 25 on a cart. The Perry Chair is also the first high-density stack chair to provide the benefits of passive ergonomics. The comfort derives from the chair’s back flex, which is counterbalanced by the user’s seated body weight. These stackable chairs on available through KI-Inc.

Perry’s monumental sculptures can be found in many locations around the world and many of his other designs can be seen on his website charlesperry.com. But if you happen to encounter one of his more than 160 monumental sculptures, take a close look and try to decipher its geometric message.  – Further information on the Costa Mesa sculpture can be found on the Henry T. Segerstrom website.

 

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Bonnie Rychlak
Bonnie Rychlak

Bonnie Rychlak is an artist, curator and museum consultant. She is the former curator and studio assistant for Isamu Noguchi, his museum, and foundation. As an artist, Rychlak has presented her work in numerous solo and group exhibitions. She received a grant from National Endowment for the Visual Arts, a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation at the Bellagio Study Center, and The Prix de Rome from the American Academy in Rome. Most recently she received a residency at the Bogliasco Foundation in Italy.

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