Israeli designer Ron Arad has an exhibit of new works at London’s Timothy Taylor Gallery, who now exclusively represents Arad in the UK. From April 8 until May 9, 2009, the Arad Exhibition will dominate the gallery with its “never before seen” collection of “nine highly sophisticated, experimental pieces.” Arad’s product design has established him as a dominant player in contemporary design: not only has he exhibited at the MOMA, Centre Pompidou, and Victoria and Albert Museum, but he has also been the subject of two monographs.
Oh, the Farmer & the Cowman Should Be Friends. Designed by Ron Arad at Timothy Taylor Gallery.
3rings has covered some of his signature pieces in the past, such as the grandiose Big Easy and the puckish Clover Chair. In keeping with Arad’s chair design, the new Thumbprint is a limited-edition gem: a bronze chair measuring approximately 74 x 63 x 56 inches—resembling something out of a fairy tale from which a powerful sea creature would reign. Shaped like the tip of a thumb with the dramatic curvature of a nautilus, Arad’s Thumbprint Chair features slight indentations made to resemble fingerprints. Whether or not the patterns are taken from Arad’s own skin is not known. At the moment, Thumbprint is one of a predicted edition of six, though that hasn’t stopped people from publicizing the marvelous chair. The always prescient Chair Blog has already covered Arad’s body-inspired bronze.
It is another piece, however, that has captured my attention. The cleverly titled “Oh, the Farmer & the Cowman Should Be Friends” is a monumental shelving unit in the shape of the United States of America, “colonizing almost an entire wall of the gallery.” Built like a jigsaw puzzle with stainless and Corten steel states, Arad’s shelf evokes something both nostalgic and political. Like small niches and hidden drawers, the compartmentalized states resemble everything small and contained that children love—not to mention people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. I’m already dreaming of having Oh, the Farmer & the Cowman Should Be Friends in my fantasy library, where it can organize books in various ways associated with the states. Thematically: books on cheese in Wisconsin, skyscrapers in New York, and birds in Texas. Alphabetically: books by Fitzgerald in Florida, Melville in Minnesota, and Calvino in California. Political classification would be an obvious option—and one tied to the shelving unit’s second signification. The piece’s size can be seen to symbolize conquest while its sections might imply disjuncture (something the title certainly substantiates). Whatever one’s interpretation, Oh, the Farmer & the Cowman Should Be Friends is arresting and thought-provoking.
Other pieces include the jewel-like Rod Gombli, the partner to the Thumbprint Chair, which shines silver, and the Bodyguards and Drunk Bodyguards, sculptural pieces “crafted from inflated aerospace aluminum.” The collection is artful and challenging, pushing the limits of design right up to the edge we term art. Timothy Taylor Gallery explains: “Refusing easy categorization or limitation, they are resolutely Ron Arad.” Had you been wondering what this week’s Icon was up to, this new exhibition should simultaneously answer and kindle questions. My first one being this: when if ever will the Thumbprint Chair and the Oh, the Farmer Shelving Unit become available to the rest of us?