Ralph Rapson’s more intimate work on sale

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Ralph Rapson’s bent wood rocker

Minnesota architect Ralph Rapson may be best remembered for his buildings, from the original Guthrie Theater to the blighted Cedar-Riverside apartment buildings. But buildings made up just part of his modernist vision; it also included flatware, teapots, lamps, dishes, jewelry, fabrics, clothes, and especially furniture.

Tonight and tomorrow, Rapson’s son Toby and Toby’s wife Janet Czaia have organized a show that brings together Rapson’s playful drawings, and the realized designs of several of his chairs, along with some of Czaia’s own artwork.

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Ralph Rapson’s “Chair of Tomorrow”

The two-day show and sale features many of Ralph Rapson’s original drawings dating from as far back as the 1930s, including renderings of his whimsical “kissing chair” or “chair of tomorrow.” Toby Rapson, who now runs Rapson Architects, describes his father’s work as casual and almost anthropomorphic:

A wonderful element of my father’s drawings was his ability to draw freehand with people using his furniture in amusing positions and behavior; he had an uncanny ability to maintain a correct perspective on his pieces and figures. He spent a great deal of time early in his career studying human anatomy and proportion. Later in life he could simply place these people seemingly effortlessly into his furniture drawings, again adding a playful quality and humanness to his

work.

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Ralph Rapson’s solid wood rockers

Toby Rapson says he ‘s been working on expanding the line of his father’s furniture designs and going through his collection of design drawings. An opportunity to use an exhibition space was presented that he and his wife felt they couldn’t pass up, and so they rushed to get this show ready.

We have also had many inquiries about purchasing Ralph’s work so we thought making some of his drawings available on a one time basis would be a good thing. I like the ideas of the drawings being in the hands of people; Don’t tell the curators that you might know, but I worry about the thought of his designs being boxed away and being almost inaccessible in an archive – the last scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark comes to mind where the Ark of the Covenant is being carted to the bowels of some warehouse (not that we’re talking Ark of the Covenant here).

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A rendering of Ralph Rapson’s lounge chair

The Furniture Design of Ralph Rapson: Two Day Exhibition and Sale runs from 5-11pm tonight and from 10am to 8pm tomorrow at 520 Selby Ave in St. Paul. A percentage of the sales will be donated to the Ralph Rapson Traveling Study Fellowship at the Minnesota Architectural Foundation

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