Paul Evans, to which I must confess some astonishment, has emerged as America’s most highly valued Modernist furniture designer. Another New Hope master, along with George Nakashima and Phil Powell, Evans produced about 5,000 studio pieces of furniture, many of which were bench made one-off’s, fabricated in and around the Lambertville/New Hope artist’s colony, and about 20,000 factory pieces for the Directional furniture company which was then based in New York City.
Price confusion is to be expected, with Evans’ various periods and lines spanning three decades of production from about 1955 until his untimely death in 1987. We’ll revisit Evan’s work periodically but, for this initial instalment, I thought it best to focus on his massive, mostly brutal, case pieces. While to the casual eye they might appear similar, there are variations and nuance that can add tremendous interest (and value).
Good - Wavy front
Like all of Evans’ major case pieces, this Wavy Front credenza seems to be the avor of the month if prices currently paid for this line are any indication. Welded steel doors mounted on heavy, wooden carcasses, the background colors tend to vivid reds and golds. Like nearly all of Evan’s horizontal cabinets, the top is finished with inset slabs of locally mined slate. There is less work involved with this design, as we’ll see, which accounts for their lower, original sale price of about $400. According to Dorsey Reading, perhaps about forty Wavy Front pieces were produced at Evans’ studio.
Better - Sculpture Front
With rare exceptions, Evans’ Sculpture Front line is considered his premier offering. Every piece, in spite of a design vocabulary that is often repeated from example to example, is bench made. Evans was said to have sketched each panel in pencil, on a napkin, which he handed to his main fabricator Dorsey Reading (whose initials are often found on a hidden, interior corner). Complicated, intense, and similar in theme, each version of this form (he made about 75 Sculpture Front pieces of various shapes and sizes in all) shows variation in pattern, color, brightness, and size. Since “brutal” is the aesthetic, bigger is usually better.
Best - One off
While most of Evans’ furniture is a variation on a specific theme, we are ultimately dealing with the offspring of a creative, artistic mind. “Bench made” means exactly that and, accordingly, there are unique interpretations that venture into the realm of the extraordinary. This cabinet, designed at the behest of a new client who “didn’t like his other work”, is a hybrid between both a Wavy Front and a Sculpture Front and, for good measure, turned on its side into a standing cabinet. Bodacious, brutal, and beautiful, this vertical case piece is considered the pinnacle of Evans’ production and holds the world record for the artist’s work.
www.ragoarts.com Credits – RAGO Arts