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Against the Grain: Wood as an Incredible Artistic Medium

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The Chevrolet Impala has been dramatically redesigned: with an exterior characterized by smooth, graceful lines and an interior filled with exquisite details. Inside the 2014 model, you'll find a carefully crafted dual-cockpit instrument panel with beautifully burnished wood-grain trim, a design element that exemplifies modern sophistication and styling. Just as the Impala is innovative and forward-thinking, so is “Against the Grain: Wood in Contemporary Art, Craft and Design,” a new exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.

Featuring nearly 90 installations and sculptures, the show (which originated at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina) brings together 57 cutting-edge artists and designers from all over the world. Though each piece is unique, these contemporary artists have one thing in common: the ability to create extraordinary things using an ordinary medium. Challenging the way we traditionally think of wood, the exhibition not only highlights the woodworking ingenuity that's alive today; it also makes us appreciate the natural beauty of one of the world's oldest materials.

We talked with curator Lowery Stokes about wood as an artistic medium and why it will always be seen as such a premium material. Read that interview, here, and see some of our favorite pieces from the show, below. Wood sure can transform!

Above: Malcolm's Chicken I, 2002
Willie Cole; Matches, brooms, wax, Styrofoam, marbles; Private Collection, Birmingham, AL
Courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York; Photo: Courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York

Hominoid: Chimpanzee, 2011
Laurel Roth; Vera wood, Swarovski crystal; Collection of Museum of Arts and Design; Museum purchase with funds provided by Marcia and Alan Docter, 2012
Courtesy of the artist; Schroeder Romero and Shredder Gallery, New York; Photo: Andy Diaz Hop

Ghost Rider, 2010
Wendell Castle; Bubinga with oil finish
Photo: Andy Diaz Hope

Wooden Textile Walnut, 2011
Elisa Strozyk; Walnut, viscose
Courtesy of the artist; Photo: Elisa Strozyk

Come Together, 2002
Ricky Swallow; Laminated jeutlo
Courtesy of the artist, Marc Foxx, Los Angeles, Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London; Darren Knight, Sydney; Photo: Fredrik Nilsen

Hyperboloid 3, 2007
Bud Latven; Macassar ebony, Brazilian canarywood
Courtesy of the artist; Photo: Robert Reck

Nest, 2010
Nina Bruun; Birch, textile, foam
Courtesy of the artist; Photo: Adam Dyrvig Tatt

Enignum Shelf, 2011
Joseph Walsh; One of a kind; Olive ash, white oil
Courtesy of Joseph Walsh Studio; Photo: Andrew Bradley

Right of Return, 2010
Marc Andre Robinson; Wood Chairs
Courtesy of Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Rome; Photo: Courtesy of the artist
Courtesy of Joseph Walsh Studio; Photo: Andrew Bradley

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