Chouinard Benches, 1921–1972
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Millard Sheets, Phil Dike, et al.
Chouinard Art Institute, Benches (1921–1972)
May 22 – June 27 2021

Century-Old Benches

‘In 1972, the illustrious artist and Chouinard Art Institute alumnus, Corinne Hartley, heard that her renowned alma mater was being abruptly shut down. She made her way to the school’s original building near MacArthur Park to find the Institute with its doors chained shut. On the side of the building was a trash heap in which Hartley saw various records and materials. What caught her eye were the drawing benches she recalled using in the 1950s, which she began to gently pull from the pile. In all, there were seven benches, which she took home as mementos, ostensibly saving them from destruction.’

via Chouinard Foundation
social media, July 12 2019

In tandem with the Chouinard Foundation, Marta hosts seven original artists’ benches from the Chouinard Art Institute (1921–1972).

Built in 1921 as partial exchange for tuition fees by then-students Millard Sheets (1907–1989) and Phil Dike (1906–1990), these recovered pieces begin to tell the dynamic, complex history of the art school and its alumni: artists and designers like John Baldessari, Milo Baughmann, Mary Corse, Sadamitsu Fujita, Edith Head, Sister Corita Kent, Allen Ruppersberg, Ed Ruscha, and Peter Shire, among scores of distinguished others.

These iconic, layered, century-old benches — donated to the Foundation in 2002 by their salvager — present themselves as humble primary documents whose graffiti, adornment, and patina tell the story of Chouinard perhaps better than anyone or anything else could.

An edition of newly-built replicas of the Chouinard artists’ benches — rendered in Douglas Fir and appearing much as they would have in 1921 — have been made available in tandem with the exhibition. By reconstructing these functional works of furniture that, in their day, facilitated the making of early artworks by some of the city’s most renowned artists, Marta celebrates the Chouinard benches not only as beautiful and functional works unto themselves, but also as items that inherently promote and facilitate the making of other works of art.

The Chouinard Foundation was established to illuminate the history of the Chouinard Art Institute and bring it to public consciousness, providing a forum for its legacy to continue while preserving the narrative of a major piece of the cultural and artistic fabric of Los Angeles.

Marta extends its sincere thanks to Chouinard Foundation co-founder Dave Tourjé and exhibition facilitator Alana Reinhart.

Download the Press Release.

Millard Sheets et al.
Chouinard Artist Bench No. 1
1921 – 1972
Douglas Fir, Paint, Hardware
37.5 L × 33.0 H × 10 D in.
95.5 L × 84.0 H × 25.5 D cm

Detail, Bench No. 1.

Bench Nos. 1 and 2.

Millard Sheets et al.
Chouinard Artist Bench No. 2
1921 – 1972
Douglas Fir, Paint, Hardware
36.5 L × 30.0 H × 9.5 D in.
93.0 L × 76.0 H × 24.0 D cm

Detail, Bench No. 2.

Detail, Bench No. 2.

Outdoor drawing class, animal anatomy, c. 1936.

Bench Nos. 3, 2, and 5.

Millard Sheets et al.
Chouinard Artist Bench No. 3
1921 – 1972
Douglas Fir, Paint, Hardware
36.5 L × 33.0 H × 9.75 D in.
93.0 L × 84.0 H × 24.7 D cm

Detail, Bench No. 3.

Unknown student on original Bench, 1960s.

Isa on reproduction Bench, 2021.

Marta et al.
Chouinard Artist Bench, 2021
Douglas Fir
36.0 L × 33.0 H × 10 D in.
91.0 W × 84.0 H × 25.0 D cm

Numbered Edition of 25

Available

Still life painting class on the patio, c. 1932.

Millard Sheets et al.
Chouinard Artist Bench No. 4
1921 – 1972
Douglas Fir, Paint, Hardware
37.0 L × 32.5 H × 9.5 D in.
94.0 L × 82.5 H × 24.0 D cm

Bench Nos. 4 and 6.

Installation view with Bench No. 5.

Millard Sheets et al.
Chouinard Artist Bench No. 5
1921 – 1972
Douglas Fir, Paint, Hardware
36.5 L × 29.5 H × 9.25 D in.
93.0 L × 75.0 H × 23.5 D cm

Bench Nos. 5, 6, and 4.

Bench Nos. 5, 6, and 3.

Installation view, Chouinard Benches 1921 – 1972.

Side-saddle drawing, October 1968.

Isa on reproduction Bench, 2021.

Marta et al.
Chouinard Artist Bench, 2021
Douglas Fir
36.0 L × 33.0 H × 10 D in.
91.0 W × 84.0 H × 25.0 D cm

Numbered Edition of 25

Available

Millard Sheets et al.
Chouinard Artist Bench No. 6
1921 – 1972
Douglas Fir, Paint, Hardware
36.5 L × 32.5 H × 9.5 D in.
93.0 L × 82.5 H × 24.0 D cm

Chouinard instructor Don Graham and students, 1960s.

Installation View, Chouinard Benches 1921 – 1972.

Millard Sheets et al.
Chouinard Artist Bench No. 7
1921 – 1972
Douglas Fir, Paint, Hardware
36.5 L × 32.0 H × 10.25 D in.
93.0 L × 81.0 H × 26.0 D cm

Installation view, Chouinard Benches 1921 – 1972.

Bibliography &
Historical Scans

Perine, Robert. Chouinard: An Art Vision Betrayed — The Story of the Chouinard Art Institute, 1921 – 1972. Artra Publishing, Inc., 1985.

International Standard Book Number, 0–936725–00–1
Library of Congress Catalogue Number, 86–70036

Marta

Marta is a gallery that hosts works at the meeting points of art and design. Founded in Los Angeles in 2019, the gallery makes space for artists to experiment with the utility of design, and for designers to explore the occasional abandonment of function. Marta’s curatorial and publication programs take interest in both the process of an object’s creation as well the narrative of its creator(s). Marta embraces the intersection of disciplines, advocates for diversity in design, and promotes access to the arts.