James Evanson’s Functional Art


In a 1986 New York Times feature, architect James Evanson explained his design vision: “decoration should be integral to the shape and structure of furniture and buildings, not simply applied without regard to their overall form.” This ethos has defined Evanson’s innovative career, and for the past three decades his work has aimed to challenge the way art meets function.

Evanson’s Aero Chair, on display at RARE.

As a young artist, Evanson studied silkscreen and sculpture at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and later attained an architecture degree at Pratt Institute in New York, accumulating a diverse set of technical and aesthetic skills along the way. These varied interests and abilities made him “something between a designer and a builder” (as the artist has described himself), and led him to create a unique line of work: Functional Art. 

For Evanson, this involved “integrating many aspects so that the whole piece is not arbitrary and whimsical, but holds together,” and resulted in designs—from curved copper chairs to architecturally inspired lighting fixtures—that are intricately hand-crafted pieces of art, yet also eminently useful objects at the same time. 

One of Evanson’s Lighthouse lamps

Evanson’s dedication to creating furniture that is both beautiful and practical has produced an exceptional body of work which has been recognized by a number of prominent galleries and museums—including Art et Industrie, Novo Arts, and Tower Gallery—and continues to serve as a paradigm of 1980s post-modern design.

“James Evanson,” RARE’s new exhibition, will feature a diverse range of the artist’s vintage designs, and will be on display from February 19th through March 14th.


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