Curly oak, satinwood, walnut, fir plywood, painted plywood splines
48 x 106.7 x 23.8 inches
Collection of the Wharton Esherick Museum
Images courtesy of James Mario and the Wharton Esherick Museum
Esherick made this Cabinet Desk when the Museum of Contemporary Craft (now the Museum of Arts and Design) in New York was compiling its checklist for The Furniture and Sculpture of Wharton Esherick (1958), the museum’s first ever exhibition of a solo artist. Although deceptively simple in its form, there are a variety of elements — both functional and decorative — that make this desk one of Esherick’s key works. Made from curly oak, there is a subtle shimmer to the surface that comes from the way light hits the grain. Light is a key element in another way: the upper drawers open to reveal electric lighting. Inspired by the immediacy of refrigerator lights, Esherick designed a wedge (or cam) that operates a jamb switch, turning the lights on or off when these drawers are opened or closed; this technology is utilized in cabinets throughout Esherick’s Studio. Flat drawers rest on runners incorporated into the doors of the desk itself, including one which serves as the desktop; this construction allows the desk to look neat with the doors closed without necessitating any clean up of its contents.