The primary point of going to NEOCON is seeing new product, and this year was no exception.
Joel Berman, the glass designer, had a high impact installation of his new product, “Olivia” and its visual quality is just one of those things that simple snapshot photography cannot convey.
That said, I really liked the pieces inside the space, which, as it turns out, were the One Point Five collection from the Japanese manufacturer Okamura [whose sales collateral - which I picked up in their showroom space on the same floor - is entirely in Japanese.]
Laste year at NEOCON one of my fave new products was a perforated metal bench from Magnusson Co. This year they showed a variation on the piece, with the addition of colored LED lights. Appropriately kitschy for an outdoor garden installation.
Again, I had a problem with the salespeople at certain vendors who couldn’t offer me any details about their newest lines. KI had a new line called Blu Sky with a couple of nice pieces like this bench that makes me think of a kind of severe version of a fainting couch. The surface is covered in fabric but not upholstered.
Also liked these stools
The salespeople couldn’t tell me who designed them or where they were made.
The people at VS, on the other hand, were happy to tell me about their line of furniture manufactured according to designs of Richard Neutra which his son Dion has licensed. If I remember correctly, neither the lounge chair and ottoman nor the table ever went into production.
Neutra designed the “boomerang” chair in the second picture for a now-demolished early 1940s housing project in San Pedro, which was produced. There’s an original in LACMA’s collection.
I always enjoy passing the Leland showroom, partly because - like my passion for ROYGBIV displays - I really have a thing for poured acrylic floors, which are a bitch to keep clean, particularly white ones. So I admire anybody who uses them.
Leland is introducing a slick, minimalist collection of lounge furniture designed by Jess Sorel that they call Palomino
Davis, a manufacturer I associate with seating, introduced a line of accessories, including a coatrack they call Sticks. Michael Schwebius designed it.
I enjoyed looking at a series of models on display of the accessory collection. One of the salespeople told me that students from Savannah College of Art and Design fabricated them.
Probably the most interesting product I saw at the whole show was a series of wall-coverings at Designtex featuring imagery of the great illustrator Charley Harper. I had forgotten that Todd Oldham had assembled a book about him shortly after Harper’s death in 2007, and appeared at the showroom to give away copies of his Harper book [a miniaturized version of the gigantic [12 x 18] coffee-table size.
Oldham told me that his interest in Harper goes all the way back to his childhood adoration of The Golden Book of Biology [first published in 1962] - a book that similarly resonates with a huge chunk of the late Baby Boom through Millennial demographic. I didn’t press him for details, but apparently Oldham has acquired the rights to Harper’s images - or at the very least has discretion to license them on behalf of his estate.
The centerpiece of the collection is a reproduction of a mosaic mural Harper had done for the Federal Building in Cincinnati, which Oldham says is in an area to which the public no longer has access.
TO’s connection here is interesting, to me at least, because the big revelation to me at last year’s NEOCON was the Alexander Girard display at Herman Miller - and not coincidentally, Oldham had published a book about Girard the previous year. I forgot to ask him which esteemed design star his next project would be about, but I’m guessing that, whoever it is, it will find its way to NEOCON.
There are so many layers to the Merchandise Mart’s signature event, NEOCON [the National Exposition of Contract Furnishings] - as a design event, as a barometer for the business economy, as an archetype of the American trade show - that it readily lends itself to rich interpretation. Yet with all the intellectual, social and financial shadings, it’s more fun just to look at it as a series of images and experiences.
Knoll - long the platinum standard for contract furnishings - seems as likely a place to start as any.
The big deal at Knoll this year is “Tools for Living,” its new line designed by Rem Koolhaas’ OMA. Like so many items introduced at Neocon, the TFL line is still in prototype, so samples of all the pieces aren’t available yet. But that said, a Knoll told me rep told me that of the 11 pieces in the line, Knoll will only show three of them at its Merchandise Mart showroom. [It will make the complete line available only in New York and San Francisco.] I could go into a whole Second City riff now but I’ll hold off.
“Counter” - a 3-part, pivot-hinged construct - is the flashiest piece in the line.
Visitors were encouraged to play with and re-configure it.
In its latest ad, the company shows the designer himself demonstrating one use for it - as seating
and shows it in a wood-grained laminate, but I like it better in the fire-engine red.
The other pieces they’re showing in Chicago are a lounge chair and a plexiglas table, also composed as a set of pivoted, cantilevered tiers.
While many of the vendors at Neocon show their wares on two vast floors of traditional trade show booths, the most significant action takes place in the showrooms of the Mart’s permanent tenants. Each year, a lot of them re-work their spaces in design-centric ways, so that you sometimes get the feeling you’re looking at an installation in an art gallery rather than a display space for commercial products. Nobody does this quite like the Maharam textile space, which always looks like a white cube of a gallery
Maharam’s fabrics are pretty much unparalleled - the company has a stable of brand-name designers living [Paul Smith, Hella Jongerius] and dead [Alexander Girard]. And it continues to do great things with its supergraphics “Digital Projects” program. This year, rather than showing a variety of the imagery, the company is showing just two examples: “Creatures” by filmmaker Andrew Zuckerman
and photographer John Sternbach’s hypnotic “Wavelength”
The Haworth showroom incorporated a series of interesting screens as its defining elements. Like a lot of things you see at NEOCon, they’re not available as product.
Patricia Urquiola, who designed the screens, also has a new line of pieces for the company. Here, a couple of cleverly-designed pieces that convert from stools to chairs [the chair backs flip over and become part of the base], shown with an occasional table that looks as if it’s sculpted out of marble but it’s really some lightweight composite material.
I’d love to say more about Urquiola’s designs, but my inability to discover much more about them is emblematic of an annoying part of trying to cover NEOCon. The products are so new - often still in prototype phase - that none of the salespeople know anything about them. This would be ok if they didn’t promise to have somebody send you information, so they scan the bar code on your badge [you can’t attend a trade show like NEOCon without a badge with a bar code]. Invariably, then, you never receive the promised information but you are placed on an email distribution list that sends you something every day.
Luna Textiles does pretty much the same thing every year for the show: it makes some item out of its fabrics and hang them on the wall sort of like artwork. illuminated by the space’s great Murano light fixtures. [Later the company gives some of them away as prizes] Last year I think the item was a backpack; this year it’s bike panniers:
which the company also showed on actual bikes in the room
I have to give credit to the Coalesse company for the moody super-graphics it has installed. Once again, although I asked, no one could tell me who did the photography.
Also, I have no idea how the atmospheric images relate to the product.
Also, why is the spelling of the company name so obviously wrong?
Teknion hasn’t changed much of the spectacular Michael Vanderbyl designed interior it unveiled last year, but it added space to house its new venture with B&B Italia
Elsewhere in the space, I couldn’t help being drawn to the textile display, because I am such a sucker for anything that’s ROYGBIV
So of course I also zeroed in on the Eames Time-Life chairs at Herman Miller [which I’ve become accustomed to seeing on Mad Men this season - in white leather. But the white frames and rainbow upholstery make this array really special.
Designtex showed its wares in similarly dramatic fashion
but Designtex has more interesting stuff, which I’ll get to later.
any idea what they call it when someone unintentionally makes art that mimics or references other well known art? (Safeway sign converted into a Rothko painting), 2013
Whatever you call it, this is a great example
I am not unlike many Facebook users who post self-portraits to let their friends know where they are and what they’re doing. There’s something oddly satisfying about posting a photo of yourself and indicating the location with the Fb map pin feature.
Selfies are fun and a cinch with the iPhone. When I was in Boston on Sunday [I had been in New Hampshire for a family event and flew in and out of Logan], I wanted to post a selfie that captured me against an archetypal Boston backdrop - Copley Square. As such, I positioned myself on the southwest [or is it northwest?] corner of Dartmouth and Boylston Streets - right in front of the entrance to the outbound T stop - and snapped away.
As efficient as the iPhone self-portrait function is, it requires some fine-tuning, which is why I always end up taking about 2 dozen shots just to get the perfect one to post, because it must blend the perfect framing [here, I wanted to show both the old and new Prudential buildings looming over Trinity Church] and - also crucial - an agreeable image of me. Finally I got one that satisfied me:
I posted it on Facebook with the appropriate caption - basically, here I am at the Finish Line of the Marathon, one day before the race, explaining that of course I wasn’t running - just in town for the day.
Boston is one of my favorite places and I spent that day just walking - from the Public Garden, through the Back Bay area down to the Convention Center, then across Mass Ave [where I took this selfie in front of the Mother Church of Christ, Scientist]
and over to the South End; then back towards Government Center, where I got on a train to the airport.
The next day, of course, was the Marathon; when I saw the video of the bombs detonating, I realized that in the top photo I was standing about 200 feet from the first explosion. I thought about the 2 dozen rejected photos of myself in front of Copley Square. If I were writing a thriller about the event, my character would turn over the photos to the FBI, and they’d somehow provide the clue that would lead to finding the perpetrator.
Of course in real life, I had already deleted all the rejects. In this case, vanity trumped the possibility of contributing to the sweep of history.
I learned many things visiting the Picasso show at the Art Institute - from the generally shocking fact that he never visited Chicago [or for that matter, anywhere in the US] to the more specifically personal epiphany that my iPhone takes better pictures than my old Fuji point ‘n shoot.
[Top, point ‘n shoot; bottom, phone]
Any assessment of the show has to start with serious props to AIC for putting together a big scholarly package based mostly on material from its permanent collection. Plus, as if it weren’t enough that the main show of 250 works by Picasso is more or less a complete retrospective of his career, the museum has assembled a slew of accompanying exhibits to mark Picasso’s impact on the city and its cultural history.
What you’re struck with initially is how spectacularly prolific Picasso was - and how excellent his work was in every medium he tried out.
The show mixes up work that’s familiar if you’ve spent much time at the Art Institute -like the blue period guitar player [above] or the seated woman at left below.
But then others that you’ve never seen before, like the picture of the woman in the straw hat, above right [unless, of course, you’ve seen the “Private Collection” from which the museum borrowed it].
200 of the pieces are from the museum’s collection. It has about 400 altogether, which sounds like a lot of work by one artist, but I’m sure it’s just a tiny fraction of his overall output. Still, the show feels like a comprehensive survey of his work. Blue Period, Rose Period, Cubism, Mythology, Mothers, Women. It’s all there.
Among the highlights for me: seeing the “discarded” fragment of the Mother & Child painting displayed beside it
and all the things from private collections, including this great vase:
and a whole bunch of truly amazing paintings
The museum has coordinated this show with a celebration of the 100th anniversary of what was officially named the International Exhibition of Modern Art, organized by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, but what we now call “The Armory Show.” It was the country’s first wholesale exposure to modern art. In New York, AAPS mounted the show in the 22nd street Armory [thus its nickname], but in Chicago, it was presented at the Art Institute. As such, the museum claims ownership of being the first art museum in America to exhibit the work of Picasso [among many other modern artists]. As museum director Douglas Druick pointed out in his prefatory remarks to the media, AIC was also the first museum in America to acquire a Picasso work [some drawings in the early 1920s and the familiar blue guitarist in 1926 - as Druick was happy to tell us, 3 years before MoMA was founded]
AIC officials have made much of these apparent one-upsmanship victories over New York. But really, it’s time for this to stop - if for no other reason than it’s a one-sided competition. New York isn’t participating. Neither are any of New York’s museums. But AIC continues to have a major insecurity issue, particularly with respect to the Metropolitan Museum.Read more
Olly Moss’s new personal tableware remixes the classic Willow Pattern with a video-game motif.
The post on Boing Boing refers to it as a “shoop, or at least not available in the stream of commerce.”
What’s a “shoop?” A Google search doesn’t immediately suggest an answer.
I was unaware of Olly Moss before this post, so thank you to the tumblr universe for the link.
I hadn’t eaten at Terzo since a couple of months after it opened in 2009. I had lunch there last week and am happy to report it was great. I am less happy to report that the place is looking a little down at the heels, which is a pretty sad state of affairs for a place that’s only 3 years old.
In the first place, I love minimalism as much as the next guy [actually, probably quite a bit more than the next guy] but I think there may be a time when less is just less. In all fairness, Dirk Denison [the designer] must have figured that the views — the Michigan Avenue street wall to the west, and the park, harbor and lakefront to the east — would have taken the place of “decor.” But when you look straight through along the north-south axis of the room [see above], it’s actually pretty uneventful.
But what’s more disturbing is the way the elements have worn. The bleached oak [?] flooring has worn through in high-traffic areas: [“stripes” on the floor are sunlight-created]
and the George Nelson-designed “Swag-Leg” chairs all have black marks on the edges [tough to see in this photo, but trust me. Every one I looked at was marked up, and it’s not the kind of thing you can wipe away with Windex]
I would think somebody should be accountable for durability. I’m not sure if Denison’s office has designed many restaurants, but I’m thinking the designers might have chosen finishes and furnishings that maybe weren’t suitable for hospitality installations.
It’s no small thing to note that the Museum of Contemporary Art has mounted Bivouac, a show of works by the French designing brothers Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec, originally shown at the Metz branch of the Pompidou museum. I’m hoping it’s a harbinger of things to come. The MCA doesn’t show [or collect] design or decorative arts, but it’s hard to overlook the gradual confluence of fine art and design in the contemporary marketplace, so if the museum really intends to fulfill its mission of reflecting the contemporary art scene, design should certainly be an important element in the mix.
Certainly you could do worse to make the case for the overlap between art and design with les freres Bouroullec, who designed every item in the show, including the exhibition display platforms and shelving. Their deceptively simple designs typically reflect multiple ideas simultaneously, melding the organic with the machine made, the random with the strictly ordered.
I first became familiar with the work of the Bouroullecs in 2009, when the Architecture & Design department of the Art Institute’s inaugural show in the Modern Wing featured an installation of their modular Cloud pieces. Maybe a month later I saw another grouping of them at the Merchandise Mart showroom of the Haworth corporation — which distributes them in the US on behalf of Kvadrat, the Swedish manufacturer — during Neocon. This couldn’t be just a coincidence, and I began to understand the inter-mingling of art, design and commerce inherent in this. The Clouds are decorative yet highly functional; mass-produced but uniquely customized depending on the installation. From many perspectives, they are genuine works of art.
The Cloud pieces are an important part of the MCA show
and make a great counterpoint to a perpendicular installation of another modular system the Bouroullecs call “Twigs” [you can see the one they call “Seaweed” in the picture at the top of the column]
While I like their furniture designs, most of them lack the stunningly innovative quality of the environmental systems.
That said, I love the collection of lacquered metal tables and the womb-ish chair
as I do the Alcove sofa, which curator Michael Darling pointed out offers “a beautiful moment of solitude” and is emblematic of the brothers’ attempts at creating a micro-architecture.
And as impressed as I am with the Clouds pieces, they wouldn’t work everywhere. But I think the “North Tile” concept [both photos below] is a lot more adaptable. And elegant.
visualculturist continues to be negligent about posting here. It’s not that there haven’t been interesting things to see [which, after all, is what visualculturist is all about]. He is offering no excuse but sloth and too many other distractions. But an auction at Wright is a great reason to ruminate.
As much as I appreciate the great design the staff acquires in sale after sale, there are some standard items that seem to be in every auction: Pierre Jeanerret pieces from the various government buildings at Chandigarh and dozens of Nakashima items. Where does it all come from?
Here are a few pieces I could easily have taken home:
a pair of Ico Parisi chairs that are covered, for some reason, in white vinyl
a sleek Finn Juhl settee that I think is more suitable for guest seating than lying down and watching tv.
accompanied by a Gio Ponti coffee table
I love the Wegner Papa Bear chair, but this one, like the Parisi chairs, seems to have fallen victim to questionable upholstery choices. White wool? Who, really, upholsters in white wool?
I’d never heard of Gianfranco Frattini until I saw this amazing 24-panel screen that Knoll distributed; this one is dated 1975. Estimated 10-15K
I could also easily live with this John Vesey console table. It would actually look great behind the Finn Juhl settee, above.
Something about these Robsjohn-Gibbings stools makes me want them. Estimated at 3-5 K for the pair, which makes me want them less.
I reviewed the recent monograph on Alexander Girard for Architect’s Newspaper [I would link here but it seems to be broken right now] so I liked seeing these pieces from the Braniff Airways collection. Unlike a lot of the furniture in the sale, this stuff has its original upholstery.
I’m still trying to figure out what movies or television shows used pieces like this in that late sixties era.The table in the center is a prototype that Girard designed along with Charles Eames, but was never put into production.
I guess it never occurred to me that Jean Prouve daybed is a pretty direct grab from Mies: the roll pillow and the tufting. This one is dated 1950; I’m sure Mies did his in the 1930s.
Someone consigned a few really slick cocktail shakers. In the pic below, Gorham Silver made the tall one on the upper shelf; it’s a facsimile of a WWI artillery shell in silver-plate and brass; dated 1918.
And wouldn’t having this Gilbert Rohde vanity table in your boudoir automatically confer star status?
I love seeing the label
But for me the highlight of the sale is the Vladimir Kagan piece from some Manhattan apartment. It wasn’t clear from the catalog, which refers to it as a “console,” but it’s actually a hinged shelf; in the catalog and in the show room, it’s hanging vertically.
and anyone who’s been to my house probably understands why I’m focused here. It’s a companion piece to my Kagan coffee table, which my parents bought in 1950, with similar Alexandra Kasuba tile work.
It’s a genuine heirloom, and probably my most prized possession.
I know I sound like a broken record [does anyone under 30 even know what that means?] when I talk about terra cotta, but I can’t help it. Chicago is the terra cotta capital of the Western Hemisphere [at least].
The exterior skin of what is now Tweet restaurant/ Big Chicks tavern [on Sheridan Road near Argyle] is one of the best examples of Jazz Age embellishment. If I were a more diligent researcher, I would find out what the Deco-esque B medallion stands for. In the meantime, I simply enjoy it for its style.
That said, the brilliance of this facade has meant that when I’ve gone by on bike or in a car or even on foot, I never look at the other side of the street.
If I did, this is at least one of the things I would see: a storefront maybe not as extravagantly decorated, but beautifully detailed all the same:
It’s a reminder that 70 years ago, even the most utilitarian storefront was lavishly conceived, but also that no matter how jaded you think you are [and I do], if you keep your eyes open, you can find something new and wonderful.
That said, although I’ve gone past Von Steuben HS [alums invariably refer to it as “Von”] dozens of times in the last few decades, I’ve never appreciated the spectacular terra cotta friezes on its Kimball Ave facade. Here’s just one: