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Artist displays furniture upside down in Chinatown

By Sonali Kohli
Published: Monday, April 09, 2012, at 03:41PM
Sonali Kohli

The "Dragon Table," as these two are called, hang from the ceiling in the Jai & Jai gallery in Chinatown, so visitors can see the curved surface and uniform bubbles under the table.

Andrew Riiska used to crawl under beautiful tables as a kid, disappointed when he saw screws and little attention to workmanship.

So when he makes furniture now, he designs with an element of discovery in mind.

He imagines someone sitting at the dragon table he’s designed and built, their hands casually wandering underneath after a meal. They’d feel uniform bumps, become a little excited at finding something new, maybe duck their head under the table to sneak a quick peak at what they’re feeling.

But people won’t have to look too hard to find Riiska’s surprises this month — his work is on display at the newly opened Jai & Jai gallery in Chinatown until the end of April.

Oh, and the exhibit’s upside down.

Presenting his work “Wrong Side Up,” as the exhibit is called, allows people to consider the furniture, mostly tables, from a different perspective than they usually would, said Jai & Jai creative director Jaitip Srisomburananont.

Riiska uses recycled wood for his furniture, and constructs pieces so they don’t need any screws to hold them together.

The two largest pieces that form what Riiska calls the “dragon table” — a table with uniform bubbles on the curved surface under the table — hang from the ceiling in the small gallery. Other tables stand on their surfaces throughout the room, like and a 69-leg table and a coffee-table with an underside that Riiska said was inspired by the Michelin Man’s belly.

“(Riiska) sees the table from beneath it,” Srisomburananont said. “And the story behind it can … be displayed by turning it upside down.

The pollywog table attached to the wall, for example, is supposed to resemble the small tadpoles that ran through Riiska’s fingers when he played in ponds as a child.

While it was Riiska’s idea to display the furniture wrong side up, he admitted that it takes away some of the magic behind discovering each piece’s quirks over time.

Like the X-shaped wooden “cross-stitch” that holds together cracks in the old wood to keep them from separating. On a table top, they’re a signature mark of his work. But underneath, they sometimes protrude, adding yet another dimension to the table – Riiska calls it a “proud X.”


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