ART, DESIGN AND CULTURAL REPORTAGE: NEW YORK — LONDON

More and Less +
Documents of Transient Art

A studio visit from graphic designers and proprietors of Specter Press — based in Seoul, Korea.

by Jonathan Lee

18 February 2010

Sulki & Min Choi stopped by to show us some of their work and talk about their recent activities. It was really great to meet graphic designers who are operating with such a strong conceptual approach to their work. They also shared a range of books and posters from their imprint Spector Press. Both are Yale MFA Grads and were researchers at JVE prior to establishing a permanent practice in Korea. They are really great people and great designers so check them out and order some books.

Min & Sulki

Many nice things to look at

Sasa 44: Annual Report 2006

Cover Sasa 44: Annual Report 2006

Perspecta 35, Excercise in Modern Construction part 3, Our Spot: New York

1/4: Oriëntatie

SKMoMA Highlights — a ghost publication that mirrors the form of a true MoMA Highlights catalog. Featuring the works of Korean contemporary artists, for the fictitious South Korea Museum of Modern Art.

SKMoMA Highlights — spreads mirroring each other

Catalog for Hyungkoo Lee’s solo exhibition at the Korean Pavilion, La Biennale di Venezia, 2007.

stills from slideshow

stills from slideshow

stills from slideshow

stills from slideshow

still from slideshow

sharing

looking

thanks to sulki & min


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16 February 2010

This past week I took some work and travelled for the first time to Stockholm for the furniture fair. I was fortunate and thrilled to hear that Jasper Morrison was exhibiting his specimen collection of jugs, jars and pitchers, having missed it at London Design Week last September. Tucked away in the century-old, basement kitchen of  art collector Wilhelmina von Hallwyls’ antique-laden residence, the show was a great relief to the peripheral week of modern scandinavian furniture.

The kitchen seemed to be the only room in the house that wasn’t surfaced in decorative collections, appropriately so for Morrison’s ideology of “super normal”, purely function-based design.  The collection is a hand-picked group, plucked from thrift stores, flea markets and Morrison’s own home. Representing everyday life, which is the circumstance of pure function, the collection has a wonderful lack of pretention about its proposition of what makes vessels function as they do. The presentation is made without added context,  the purpose is to simply observe typologies of jugs, jars & pitchers.

As I am studying ceramic design, I found this collection to be a pop-up text book of function. An imperative question for design is why a new form should exist to serve the same purpose as millions of existing specimens are floating around in the  object stratosphere. Morrison is a designer who observes his predessesors, and offers new proposals, combining functional success and removing hindering qualities of form and material.  In the end his objects are equal in their visual anonymity, adding to the progressive timeline of industrial function. This could not be done without this level of observation.

Hallwyl Museum Kitchen

Detail

Watering Can

Teapot Specimen

To see this exhibition which is essentially pure research, without the glamour and pretention of a gallery was an interesting contrast to another show in London curated by designer Konstantin Grcic, titled ”Design Real” at the Serpentine Gallery. The work of both designers is exclusively function-based, although Grcic perhaps implies more biographical form to his work than Morrison.  The show at the Serpentine presents functional design as sterilized gallery work, by having plinths, white walls and minimal description; It proposes function by the standard of art, removing the observers inclination to get extremely close or touch. Morrison’s show on the other hand eliminates the gallery logic entirely, and uses a functional space to display functional objects- it could potentially be mistaken for the work of a neurotic house-keeper. The designer/curator is something that is being seen more and more as disciplines aggressively and publicly use one other in collaborations. Based on these two shows, what the designer, or maker, presents is seemingly more valuable in the aspect of proven observation, of what designers are competing with and what they deem successful.

Stove Detail

Specimens

Detail

Detail

Hallwyl Kitchen

Hallwyl Museum: Hamngatan 4, 111 47 Stockholm

The exhibition “Jugs, Jars & Pitchers”  is presented by Forum magazine and Henrik Nygren Design.

Forum is the Magazine for Scandinavian Architecture, Interiors and Design. Issue no.1 for 2010 includes an excellent article based on discussion with Morrison in regards to his new show.


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27 January 2010

Last week London art directors Will Hudson and Alex Bec launched their fourth annual show titled If You Could Collaborate. The show featured 33 pairings of designers and artists at A Foundation Gallery, all who were given 12 months to produce across disciplinary borders. Collaboration seems to be one of those methods that for me, seemingly for the RCA, is divinely attractive. I am finding in my recent attempts that it is not always magical and I think I brought a little screen of skepticism with me when seeing this work, which for the most part diminished after considering the different approaches. Certain pieces in here seem holistic in concept, material usage, and aesthetic; Others are perfect specimens of two ideas, two ways of working that form visible hybrids of styles. Having seen the gamut of approaches I found some that were logical, expected, and others that had less refined outcomes. Either way- it seemed like the point, whichever side of the fence they landed on. This show had no shortage of conceptual depth or eye candy- definitely looking forward to next years!

There is an excellent catalog available here. Below are some images and links to both sides of the collaborations. Project descriptions where quoted are taken from the If You Could website:

Praline + The Model Shop:

“Praline have been creating brilliant design solutions for many years, from publications and branding, to websites and exhibitions. Always looking to add humour and clarity to their work, they’re not put off by the size of a project, working with both large organisations and smaller outfits, including esteemed clients such as the Pompidou Centre and Tate Modern. After meeting The Model Shop of architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, through a previous commission they decided they’d like to extend their working relationship a little further. Ending up with a new font, and physical scale models interpreting its shapes.”

Praline and The Model Shop

Detail

Ian Wright + Riitta Ikonen

Ian Wright and Riitta Ikonen

Detail of Helmet

Ian Wright and Riitta Ikonen

Max Lamb + Gemma Holt

I first saw some of Max Lamb’s work at the Johnson Trading Gallery in NYC. It happened to be a week before I was moving to London to attend the RCA and ended up finding an adjunct show in Hoxton with more of his work. I felt the piece that Gemma and Max created was an alternative interpretation to the collaborative theme. More so, it considered the circumstance of the show and took the idea of collaboration as a way of doing something site specific rather than an amalgamation of professions. Besides- herringbone is the new houndstooth.

Max Lamb and Gemma Holt

Craig Ward + Sean Freeman + Alison Carmichael

Craig Ward, Sean Freeman & Alison Carmichael

Fred Butler + No Days Off

“A well-loved member of the fashion industry, Fred is a truly influential creative force. Known for making beautiful props and accessories, there’s no more solid proof of her class than knowing she’s worked on commissions for the likes of Vogue, i-D, Dazed & Confused, MTV and Selfridges as well as her own personal collections. With design studio No Days Off, she is launching the Eight Days A Week campaign, petitioning for a little bit extra time….”

Fred Butler & No Days Off

Karl Brandin + And Beyond

“Karl Grandin is a creative who is difficult to shoehorn. You may find him working as one half of design team Vår, as co-founder of fashion label Cheap Monday, or as a successful freelance illustrator. What you won’t find is him producing a bad piece of work. A varied portfolio, which is infused with a swagger of someone with an inherent desire to create.

By collecting familiar elements from flags, detaching them from their sources and putting them back together in new combinations, he and Dutch fashion designers And Beyond have created a new world in the form of an oversized flag.”

Karl Brandin & And Beyond

Marion Deuchars + Margaret Calvert

Marion Deuchars & Margaret Calvert

Rob Ryan and Michael Marriot

“There are a thousand words we could use to describe Rob Ryan’s work, and all of them are superlatives. Hyperbole is something we usually try and steer away from when describing artwork, but it’s tough to do Rob’s work enough justice without it. A combination of heartfelt sentiments, both beautifully depicted and exquisitely cut, confirm you’re in the hands of a true great when presented with a Rob Ryan piece.

Given a canvas to execute his work by Michael Marriott in the form of a flatpack rocking chair, the duo have produced a piece of furniture I’m sure lots of people will want to get their hands on.”

Rob Ryan and Michael Marriot

Job Wouters + Roel Wouters

Job Wouters & Roel Wouters

BCMH + Smith & Wightman

This was one of my favorite pieces in the show. The team created currencies based on production and material cost. I love the idea of objects being tactilely/physically representative of their value and not just conceptually so.

BCMH + Smith & Wightman


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2 January 2010

I’m in New York briefly before returning to London, and it happens to be the one week where most galleries are closed due to the Christmas/New Years holiday! New Years eve led me to the MoMA, along with the rest of New York. Struggled through the Bauhaus & Tim Burton shows, and by habit checked out the design and architecture galleries which showcase a rotating selection of MoMA’s permanent collection. This never fails to impress. My favorite aspect of this gallery is the central showcase, which is a jewel box of product designs from the past century. Braun always has a substantial line-up of products here, more than not by Mr. Rams.  The “Less and More” show at the Design Museum in London creates such a cohesive time line of his work, and here is was nice to see single specimens alongside products from contemporaries. For the millionth time I realize how wonderfully timeless all of these products are, the work being present for precisely that reason. Most of the participants have lived by the staples of modernist principles, building a roster of manifestos which have yielded decades of iconic design.  To kick-off the New York posts here is some eye candy from the showcase at the MoMA along with some manifestos (take it or leave it!) to inspire the New Year.

MoMA

Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles of Good Design,                   Good design is innovative.
Good design makes a product useful.
Good design is aesthetic.
Good design makes a product understandable.
Good design is unobtrusive.
Good design is honest.
Good design is long-lasting.
Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
Good design is environmentally friendly.
Good design is as little design as possible.

Portable Transistor Radio & Phonograph (Model TP1) 1959,Design by Dieter Rams, manufactured by Braun AG, Frankfurt, Germany, Plastic Casing, Aluminium Frame, and leather strap

Rolf Harder, Alcan Foil Pamphlets for Aluminium Company of Canada, lithograph, c.1960-62

Case Detail

David Gammon, Turntable, Polished aluminium, brass, plywood and acrylic, manufactured by Transcriptors Ltd., New York, 1964

Enzo Mari, Timor Perpetual Calendar, plastic,manufactured by Danese S.r.i, Italy, c.1966/ Massimo Vignelli, Max-2 Stacking Cup,plastic, manufactured by Heller Designs Inc. c.1970/ Pio Manzu, Chronotime Clocks, ABS polymer casing and metal parts,manufactured by Italora, Milan, c.1968

Adolph Loos, excerpt, “Ornaments and Crime”, 1908
The change in ornament implies a premature devaluation of labor. The worker’s time, the utilized material is capital that has been wasted. I have made the statement: The form of an object should be bearable for as long as the object lasts physically. I would like to try to explain this: a suit will be changed more frequently than a valuable fur coat. A lady’s evening dress, intended for one night only, will be changed more rapidly than a writing desk. Woe betide the writing desk that has to be changed as frequently as an evening dress, just because the style has become unbearable. Then the money that was spent on the writing desk will have been wasted.

Massimo Vignelli, excerpt ,”The Vignelli Canon”, 2008

Whatever we do, if not understood, fails to communicate and is wasted effort. We design things which we think are semantically correct and syntactically consistent but if, at the point of fruition, no one understands the result, or the meaning of all that effort, the entire work is useless. Sometimes it may need some explanation but it is better when not necessary. Any artifact should stand by itself in all its clarity. Otherwise,something really important has been missed. The final look of anything is the by-product of the clarity (or lack of it) during its design phase. It is important to understand the starting point and all assumptions of any project to fully comprehend the final result and measure its efficiency. Clarity of intent will translate in to clarity of result and that is of paramount importance in Design. Confused, complicated designs reveal an equally confused and complicated mind. We love complexities but hate complications! Having said this, I must add that we like Design to be forceful. We do not like limpy design. We like Design to be intellectually elegant – that means elegance of the mind, not one of manners, elegance that is the opposite of vulgarity. We like Design to be beyond fashionable modes and temporary fads. We like Design to be as timeless as possible. We despise the culture of obsolescence. We feel the moral imperative of designing things that will last for a long time. It is with this set of values that we approach Design everyday, regardless of what it may be: two or three dimensional, large or small, rich or poor. Design is One!

Ladislav Sutnar, Build the Town Blocks, painted wood, c.1940

Ladislav Sutnar, Build the Town Promotional Cards, paper, c.1940

Ladislav Sutnar, Build the Town Promotional Cards, paper, c.1940

Walter Gropius, “Bauhaus Manifesto”, 1919

The final goal of any plastic activity is the building! To decorate it was once the most noble task of the plastic arts; they belonged intimately to the component parts of the great art of architecture. Today, they delight in an autonomy that may, again, lead to a collaboration among all creative artists.

Architects, painters, and sculptors must relearn to known and understand the complex form of the construction as a whole and in its element: Then their works will be filled again with the architectonic spirit that they lost in the art of the drawing room.

The old art schools could not achieve this unity, and, anyway, how could they have done it–art being unteachable. They must turn again to workshops. The universe of model draftsmen and of those who work in the applied arts, a universe where one limits oneself to drawing and painting, must finally rediscover the universe of building. When the young man who feels the call for plastic creativity first learns a trade, as in the old days, then the unproductive artist will no longer be doomed to unfinished works, for he will have a trade, a capacity to excel in something.

Architects, sculptors, painters, all of us, we must return to manual work! For there is no “professional art.” There is no basic difference between the artist and the artisan. The artist is just an elevated version of the artisan. Thank heaven, during rare moments of light that are beyond his control, art flourishes unconsciously from the work of his hands, but the knowledge of the basics of his work is indispensable to any artist. It is the source of all creative production.

Let us therefore form a new union of artisans, free of the arrogance that led to a separation of classes and built a wall of arrogance between artisans and artists! Let’s have the will to do it, let’s conceive and achieve together the construction of a future that will unite everything: architecture, sculpture, and painting in a single formation, and that one day will rise toward heaven, the shining symbol of a new faith.

Diagram of the Bauhaus Curriculum

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, “Working theses”, 1923.

We reject all aesthetic speculation, all doctrine,and all formalism. Architecture is the will of the age conceived in spatial terms. Living. Changing. New. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, only today can be given form. Only this architecture creates. Create form out of the nature of the task with the means of our time. This is our work. O F F I C E. B U I L D I N G. The office building is a house of work of organization of clarity of economy. Bright, wide workrooms, easy to oversee, undivided except as the organism of the undertaking is divided. The maximum effect with the minimum expenditure of means. The materials are concrete iron glass. Reinforced concrete buildings are by nature skeletal buildings. No noodles nor armoured turrets. A construction of girders that carry the weight, and walls that carry no weight. That is to say, buildings consisting of skin and bones.


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by Melissa Gamwell

25 December 2009

The other week I saw the Stuart Haygarth show titled “Found” at Haunch of Venison. Having only seen one of his chandelier pieces at the re-opening of New Museum in NYC a few years ago, it was great to see his newer furniture projects alongside a collection of his lighting. The furniture is successful by his process, re-purposing meticulously curated collections of found objects, but there is a quality to his lighting that literally and conceptually elevates objects beyond their industrial disposition. The lack of this relationship in the furniture is perhaps because we are already adept to accessing and using objects at these proximities, in these positions. Objects, functional or not, are experienced by being picked up, turned, thrown away, packed, stored, displayed…  Adversely, the chandeliers force us to look up through the lenses and eyeglass frames used in the collection, effectively displacing the viewer and the objects an equidistance from their utilitarian relationship, revealing new emotional typologies.

Cabinet Detail

Cabinet Detail

The lens-frame chandeliers, called urchin lights, are so evocative in their possession of  historical reference, I felt they were the most successful pieces in the show. Displayed in the only darkened room in the gallery, they loom over the  viewer in an unmatched cluster of three, initially ocean-like in their presence. Once under them, they attain more robotic and skeletal qualities. Seeing so many tiny clavicle-like frames is instantly reminiscent of described holocaust remains, personal objects that were indefinitely part of daily life, an enabler, a dis-abler, a by-product. In grouping such an immensity of frames, the objects are considered on levels of dispossession, the sinister suggestion of an object’s ability to persevere beyond the life of its owner. This possibly is an objects greater life, from the time of abandonment to reincarnation.

Urchin Light

Urchin Light

Urchin light detail

Urchin light detail

Urchin light detail

Urchin light detail

Lens Chanelier

Lens Chandelier

Lens Chandelier Detail

Lens Chandelier Detail

Conical Lens Chandelier

Conical Lens Chandelier

Detail from center

Detail from center

Other favorites were the table lamps whose bases were adorned with the obsessive cat and dog collections often thrown to the second-hand shop.

SH_CatDogLamp_vs01

Ceramic Figurine Lamps

Cat Detail

Cat Detail

Bottle Cap Floor Lamps

Bottle Cap Floor Lamps

The Stuart Haygarth show “Found”, will be up at Haunch of Venison, 6 Burlington Gardens
London W1S 3ET, through 30 January.

http://www.haunchofvenison.com

http://www.stuarthaygarth.com/

http://www.newmuseum.org/


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by Melissa Gamwell

14 December 2009

For the first term project at the Royal College of Art we were asked to choose an object from the Victoria & Albert Museum’s new ceramic gallery, create a replica and produce an interpretation. Nearly a week after considering hundreds of objects, which are displayed in a stunning strand of spaces on the third floor, I finally landed on a French porcelain cosmetics jar, originating from a factory in Mennecy, outside of Paris in pre-revolutionary 17th century France. My initial attraction was due to its hundreds of seemingly identical flowers coating the surface. Any object oriented between the typologies of industrial production and delicate craftsmanship usually catches my eye, and this piece in particular, despite my feeling that it was too simple of an object ( which I now retract entirely), became my focus for the past 8 weeks.

  Cosmetics Jar, Mennecy, France, 1755. Soft paste porcelain with hand-pressed decoration(left) Mennecy II, London, 2009. Slipcast porcelain, casting wax, graphite, plaster(right)

Cosmetics Jar, Mennecy, France, 1755. Soft paste porcelain with hand-pressed decoration. Approx 16 cm x 13cm(left) Mennecy II, London, 2009. Slipcast porcelain, casting wax, graphite, plaster. Approx 28cm x 18cm (right)

Aside from the technical challenges I was particularly interested in the life of such an object and its user. This jar would have been part of a set, living on an impressive vanity where the ritual of beautification would occur. Both the 17th century french royalty and the bourgeois court were heavy subscribers to the cosmetics industry. Ointments and powders were used to make the skin appear more fair and white, which was a visual proclamation of the luxury of service, situated well beyond a sun-cast, agrarian means of living. Despite the privilege, cosmetics at the time used arsenic as an ingredient, which lead to skin disfigurements and fatalities.

I love that an object can possess such a dichotomy, sourcing beauty and disfigurement, and inherently also be a decorative particle of another surface. When developing an interpretation, my focus was derived from the temporal quality of cosmetics as a surface device, and how it might integrate an object abstractly with a person and their environment.

The form itself became an exaggeration of the original Mennecy jar, but now coated in a series of residual materials that will fade and deteriorate on the vase, while making marks on the person and their habitat. Consequently the object will become a record of its use, questionably more unsightly or constantly cleaner, more deteriorated or progressively beautiful with age.

Here is a visual time line of the project showing varying stages of the process.

First attempts at throwing porcelain

First attempts at throwing porcelain

The original jar and lid would have first been thrown in a soft-paste porcelain on a wheel, then turned by hand to create the decorative marks and shape. The flowers are hand made and immediately applied.  For my attempt I experimented with different templates to accommodate the form of the original, and also created a plaster tool to aid in the production of the flowers.

ThrowingSamples_vs03

Base form with and without floral application

Original Mennecy Jar ( left) and replica ( right)

Original Mennecy Jar ( left) and replica ( right)

Details of the replica object

Details of the replica object

One of my earlier reactions to the form and use of decoration was to invert the expectation of flourish by creating the texture/subject/interest on the inside of the vessel. While I was also contemplating the final direction of my interpretation, I made a test study for this concept ( which was also used as a glaze test). I will definitely be developing this concept further for another project called secret fauna@ secretfauna.com

Inverted Mennecy, London, 2009. Hard-paste porcelain. Hand applied flowers and horses.

Inverted Mennecy with hand applied flowers and horses. Hard-paste porcelain. Approx 13cm x 9 cm

Horses_vs02

Detail

Detail

Detail

Below are some sketches that were made from the original thrown forms which began to dictate the forms of the final interpretation. These were thrown spontaneously  and after living with them in my studio  I began to see them as small sketches of how I might go forward.

Thrown sketches

Thrown sketches

This led to more refined forms turned in plaster for casting.

Turned plaster forms

3 form developments in plaster

Porcelain Casts

Porcelain Casts

Porcelain casts and color sampling

Porcelain casts and color sampling

Porcelain casts

Porcelain casts

When considering materials to coat the surface of the vases, I experimented with colors and textures that I felt had a notion of cosmetics and that historically related to objects and object-making. One of my first thoughts was to use red wax because it  reminded me of the body, blood & femininity. It also works as a nod to lipstick & rouges.  I was very attracted to the residual quality of wax, in that despite the color, if you are to touch it, you end up repelling other kinds of matter, rather than obtaining a visual mark. Contrary to that I also started testing graphite mixed with binders, which makes it a bit harder and slightly less transferable, reminiscent of an eyeshadow or pencil. Finally I tested plaster with different gradients of tint, to reference a finely pressed powder.

Porcelain sample dipped in wax

Porcelain sample dipped in wax

Tinted plaster swatches and porcelain samples dipped in plaster

Tinted plaster swatches and porcelain samples dipped in plaster

Porcelain samples dipped in varying consistencies of liquid graphite

Porcelain samples dipped in varying consistencies of liquid graphite

Final prototypes:

Slip cast porcelain with wax, plaster and graphite coatings

Slip cast porcelain with wax, plaster and graphite coatings

Graphite and plaster transfer

Graphite and plaster transfer

ModelVase_vs02

habitats

FinalPrototype_vs02

Detail

Here is an article about the renovations of the new V&A ceramic galleries:

http://www.septemberindustry.co.uk/?p=2985

The Anish Kapoor exhibit:

http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibitions/anish-kapoor/


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David Chipperfield
Form Matters
&
Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams

by Jonathan Lee

25 November 2009

Here are a few images from two exhibitions currently on view at the Design Museum – British architect David Chipperfield’s Form Matters and Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams. Both Chipperfield and Rams are very serious in their approach to design, and both are incredibly formally oriented. I got the sense that this was an intentional scheduling decision on behalf of the museum, and found it interesting to consider and experience both shows sequentially.

Form Matters Entrance

Form Matters Entrance

The Chipperfield show seems to be a more carefully considered show, the space seemed more complex and the flow of the show seems a little more natural. I imagine the second floor gallery easier to program, than the split-up third floor galleries. The show featured video, images, drawings, and most importantly models – almost none of which are depicted here, for whatever reason I only took images of the wall graphics (the strongest part of the visual identity of the show).

Project/Wall Graphics Detail

Project/Wall Graphic Detail

Project/Wall Graphic Detail

Project/Wall Graphic Detail

Wall graphic detail

Project/Wall graphic detail

Less and More felt a lot looser in program. The products were placed in rows on long rectangular pedestals or tables, a few inset in vitrines etc. but I am not sure this was really the best method of display for the work. It did allow for a full view of the prducts in most cases, but the result seemed similar to a sidewalk sale or antique furniture shop. Another side affect of the long tables was the simplicity of movement through the space, the tables acted as long galleys that felt restrictive or too committal. I really enjoyed seeing so much of Dieter Rams’ work, but I felt the show lacked coherency or even a very clear message.

Two interesting moments occur in the show – my favorite was a sort of faux living room filled with Rams’ furniture and products. This was actually the most conventional area of the exhibition design – but it had a nice cumulative effect to be able to see all his pieces next to each other. Finally, there was a case at the very end of the exhibition, with a few pieces from the museums collection that were made by designers (Ives, Morrison, Fukasawa) of later generations whom were “influenced” by Rams’ work. I found this moment weak, and such a missed opportunity. This is precisely the argument the show wanted to make, but perhaps the process of clearing the rights and exploring the idea of inherited language and influence loomed too large a problem to address. Rams’ work of course clean, beautiful and rigorous – either way it was worth seeing first hand.

http://designmuseum.org/

Main Room

Main Room

Panels

Panels

Braun Radio

Braun Radio

P1050134

Turntable

P1050116

Tabletop Design in case with text label

P1050101

Dieter Rams life


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