Thursday, August 6, 2009

Feast of curves

I can't say I am a big fan of "organic shapes," but the Ron Arad show at MoMA had the power to engulf me in amazement. It's much more than just a fancy furniture showroom - the space itself is a masterpiece. A giant display structure (Cage sans Frontières) twists and unfolds the beautiful objects as it loops around the gallery. The morphing grid is made of Cor-ten steel, lined with polished stainless steel inside the squares and backed with stretched fabric. The installation functions not only as shelves that hold most of the exhibits, but a powerful unifying device that sets the general tone of the show. As it warps through the gallery, it divides the space into sections and at the same time creates connections and flips it inside out.

It's hard to describe Ron Arad's career. Industrial design? Architecture? Art? Maybe as the exhibition is titled, "No Discipline" can define his work. Of course, most people know him from his chairs, like Big Easy and Ripple Chair. His design has a certain 50s/60s sensibility that resembles Frederick Kiesler or Verner Panton, but the originality is undeniable. He dares to explore new forms, and more importantly, new materiality and manufacture techniques. I was most fascinated by this set of two chairs called "Even the Odd Balls?" (2008), a variation in the Big Easy family. Making the exact inversions out of stainless steel is both conceptually intriguing and technically challenging.

Some other objects picked from the show:

Chair By Its Cover, 1989

Uncut, 1997 (vacuum-formed aluminum)

Thumbprint, 2007 (made of stainless steel rods)

Paved with Good Intentions (series), 2005

Bodyguard n°5, 2007 (blown superplastic aluminum)

I.P.C.O (Inverted Pinhole Camera Obscura), 2001 (by modifying the bulb's filament)

Lo-Rez-Dolores-Tabula-Rasa, 2004 (fiber optics projection from inside a Corian table)

I love this one: Ballpark (2001), a prototype developed for Ingo Maurer’s lighting company. A group of small rubber balls, each with a small mirror on it, catch the light and spell out words or images. The angle of each ball is individually manipulated so that the text reflected on the wall can be different from - even the opposite of - what is shown on the tray. Isn't it fun and ingenious?

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