Crafting Modernism: Masters of the American Studio Design Movement from the Pinnacle Art Collection

Crafting Modernism: Masters of the American Studio Design Movement from the Pinnacle Art Collection

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 574. "Jaguar" Bench.

Judy Kensley McKie

"Jaguar" Bench

Auction Closed

June 10, 03:47 PM GMT


100,000 - 150,000 USD

Lot Details


Judy Kensley McKie

"Jaguar" Bench


number 11 from an edition of 12

patinated bronze

monogrammed ©JKM, dated 1992 and numbered 11/12

26½ x 57 x 17½ in. (67.3 x 144.8 x 44.4 cm)

Rago Auctions, Lambertville, New Jersey, April 25, 2010, lot 543
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Crafting a Legacy: Contemporary American Crafts in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA, 2002, pp. 116 and 162-163 (for an example of the model in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art)
Bebe Pritam Johnson and Warren Eames Johnson, Speaking of Furniture: Conversations with 14 American Masters, New York, 2013, pp. 90 and 99
In all of furniture history, you’ll never see better lines. This was Judy Kensley McKie’s not-at-all-secret weapon: an instantly recognizable contour that quickens the animals of her menagerie to life. In McKie’s magisterial Jaguar Bench, one of her great compositional achievements, the answering curves of the big cat’s neck and tail act as parentheses for an unexpectedly elongated body (the better to sit on). The front and rear legs have similar pneumatic shapes, but drop to the floor at slightly different angles, imparting the bench with a forward-leaning stance. It perfectly conjures a predator at rest.

This miracle of form, like all of McKie’s bronze works, was achieved in collaboration with Artworks Foundry in the Bay Area, operated by Italian master caster Piero Mussi. It wasn’t until the early 1990s, well into McKie’s career, that this singularly productive partnership got underway.1 Initially, she sent Mussi originals in carved wood – her preferred material up until that point – but soon shifted to hard foam, an easier material to work. From this original, the foundry would make a rubber mold, then create a wax model. Gates and sprues are added; the model is sheathed in layers of heat-resistant investment; and molten metal is poured in. Once cooled and freed from its carapace, the piece is cleaned up and surfaced with a patina. This elaborate process – much the same as bronze casting has been since the Renaissance – is belied by the astonishing animation of McKie’s conception. Her jaguar seems less a creature of the foundry than of the jungle. Or else, the imagination.

[1] See Glenn Adamson and Ariel Zaccheo, Judy Kensley McKie: Cast of Characters (San Francisco Museum of Craft + Design, 2018). The connection between McKie and Mussi was made by Oakland furniture maker Garry Knox Bennett.