Interview: Norman Kelley

Norman and Kelley describe their practice as applying layers of interpretation to complicate the familiar.

September 22, 2014

Recorded in 2014.

The Architectural League Prize, established in 1981, recognizes exemplary and provocative work by young practitioners and provides a public forum for the exchange of their ideas.

Thomas Kelley and Carrie Norman founded the Brooklyn- and Chicago-based design collaborative Norman Kelley in 2012. Through their work Kelley and Norman seek to “vulgarize, satirize, and reposition (lofty) material to elevate the ordinary.” Recent projects include Wrong Chairs, in which they “purposefully disrupt the notion of ‘correctness’” with stylized abstractions of the iconic Windsor Chair, and Shape Shape Evolution, an interior playhouse for the Early Learning Play Foundation in Chicago.

In the interview above, Norman and Kelley describe their practice as applying a new layer of interpretation to provide a more subtle reading of the familiar, influenced by magic shows and the paraprosdokian, a figure of speech commonly used in satire. With a literal interpretation of the theme of Overlay, Norman and Kelley draw on the gallery wall a 1960s photograph of Marcel Breuer in front of a window at the Whitney Museum, overlaying one gallery experience with another. Toying with the illusion that the “window” is casting light on their Wrong Chairs, they create a game to bring the audience in and inspire close looking.


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