Show ‘designs’ both sides of the brain

     (AAPNW-WI) – The late twentieth century brought a period of social and political transition to Europe, and included the fall of the Berlin Wall, the downfall of the Soviet Union, and the redrawing of the European map. A European Union of 490 million people emerged and became the world’s largest single market, contributing to the rise of a strong European design culture.

Mathias Bengtsson, Slice chair, 1999. Photo courtesy Martin Scott-Jupp.

     Opening Saturday, October 9 at the Milwaukee Art Museum, “European Design Since 1985: Shaping the New Century” in the Baker/Rowland Galleries is the first extensive analysis of contemporary Western European design. It presents furniture, ceramics, metalwork, glass, and consumer products created by more than ninety designers. With objects both familiar and surreal, the show describes Europe’s driving role in the production of design in the 1980s and 1990s.

Monika Mulder, Vållö watering cans, 2003. Photo courtesy Inter IKEA Systems B.V.

     Organized by R. Craig Miller from the Indianapolis Museum of Art, he has outlined the exhibition around two major tendencies: Modern designers approach design rationally, producing functional objects. Postmodern designers avoid reason by embracing

Hella Jongerius, Non-Temporary ceramics, 2005. Photo courtesy Royal Tichelaar Makkum.

objects that can be purely conceptual, highly decorative, or even kitsch. The two periods illustrate a visual and continuous disagreement as far as what is the leading design principle: function or artistic concept?

Jorge Pensi, Toledo stacking chair, 1988. Photo courtesy Knoll, Inc.

     To designers who have a Modernist spirit, like the “form follows function” school of the 1920s Bauhaus, good design comes from the integration of use, materials, and process; their designs are usually for mass-production. Modernism is further divided in the exhibition into “Geometric Minimal,” “Biomorphic,” and “Neo-Pop” sections. Designs include perfectly proportioned cookware, amoeboid chairs by Marc Newson, and inexpensive watering cans by IKEA.

     In contrast, those continuing the early 1980s Postmodern movement seek to open up the parameters of design; they embrace handcraft, conceptual art, and ornament. Postmodernism in the exhibition is divided into “Decorative,” “Expressive,” “Conceptual,” “Neo-Dada/Surreal,” and “Neo-Decorative” categories. Objects range widely from punkish crushed metal chairs by Ron Arad to twirling flower confection lamps by Tord Bonntje.

     For more information on this ground-breaking exhibition, see or call 414.224.3200. The show will be on view through January 9, 2011.

Published by on September 2010. Filed under Archives, Art-to-Art Marketplace Guide, At the Museums dept, PaletteBoards Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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