Arts & Culture

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Contemporary Furniture Design

from the High Museum of Art

Contemporary Furniture Design
This group of contemporary furniture represents both the ideas of the moment—innovative materials, technology, and manufacturing processes—and remnants of the past—traditional forms, processes, and natural materials. The High Museum of Art’s renowned contemporary design collection reflects the international nature of the field and features works ranging from high-tech pieces created on a computer to lyrical, handcrafted, low-tech designs in traditional media. The works exhibited here highlight the talents of some of the most important and compelling designers working today and show the incredible breadth and range of their intellect and creative prowess.

“I think it’s really important to design things with a kind of personality.” —Marc Newson

Australian-born Marc Newson achieved celebrity status with his biomorphic designs beginning in the 1980s. Newson is fascinated with light, reflection, hollow forms, and negative space. In the playful Embryo chair, the hollow leg opening, unusual material (neoprene as upholstery), and swollen curves demonstrate Newson’s continued dedication to his biomorphic language, sophisticated forms, and diversity of materials.

“With every assignment we try to do something different...But of course we have some obsessions: sensuality, elegance, and fluidity.” —Patrick Jouin

French designer Patrick Jouin thrives through creative cultivation of new ideas. In 2004 he introduced his innovative use of rapid prototyping (RP) technologies: a computer-aided design is transmitted to a 3-D printer, where lasers harden liquefied or powdered plastic, layer by layer, until the design emerges completed without assembly. Jouin was the first to successfully adapt this technology to furniture, and his SOLID series (S1 stool) is a groundbreaking collection of self-produced furniture designs resulting from his RP studies.

“I don’t subscribe to any discipline. . . . There’s very little demarcation between sculpture, design, architecture.” —Ron Arad

London-based designer Ron Arad is known for his innovative architecture, industrial design, and limited-edition studio pieces. His ability to blur the line between art and design makes him one of today’s most influential contemporary designers. As a professor of product design, Arad continues to push the boundaries of material and process by combining precious metals and plastics with cutting-edge technology.

Marcel Wanders has played a vital role in developing new practices and approaches to Dutch design since the establishment of the highly influential group Droog Design in 1993. Wanders’s furniture shows a range of materials, process, intent, and form, while maintaining an element of surprise in each piece. The Crochet chair, formed of hand-crocheted pieces dipped in resin, is practically weightless and offers a contemporary twist, wherein the upholstery—the traditionally decorative element—also functions as the structural element.

A special commission for the High Museum, Jurgen Bey’s Treetrunk Bench High Table is a lighthearted yet serious artwork that uses humor to raise awareness about environmental conservation. The eighty-year-old Mockernut Hickory came from the Atlanta Botanical Garden, providing a wonderful opportunity for the two institutions to collaborate on the creation of an artwork that is as much a part of Atlanta’s history as they are. It includes Bey’s signature use of bronze chair-backs cast from pre-existing chairs, but is unique in the series because Bey created the tall side table exclusively for the High.

Dutch designer Joris Laarman's Bone Armchair may be reminiscent of art nouveau furniture designs from the early 1900s, but it is firmly rooted in the technology of the 21st century. The design was created using computer software developed for the European automotive industry, based on scientific research on the structural growth patterns of bone and trees and their capacity to add, remove, and redistribute matter in response to external stimuli. A full scale model was created through the Rapid Prototyping (stereolithography) process, from which this marble resin and porcelain prototype was cast. The result is an armchair that seems to rise from the ground.

With tremendous wit, bravado, and skill, Jaime Hayon has married two seemingly unrelated and commonplace things—a chicken and a rocking chair—to create a dynamic, enigmatic, and engaging masterpiece. Hayon wanted to create something that “makes you dream when you look at it.” This piece celebrates Hayon’s vision of childhood and fantasy.

Oki Sato, founder and creative leader of Japanese design group nendo, has developed a reputation for designing objects that are deceptively simple and poetic. Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake challenged nendo to create something from material left over when creating pleats. The resulting Cabbage chair repurposes waste from the textile-making process. nendo simply peels away the layers of small, soft fabric until a charming seating surface is revealed.

The Brazilian brothers Fernando and Humberto Campana create works that not only celebrate their national spirit and self-described “zest for life,” but are made primarily from found, common, or recycled materials. The Campana brothers first examine the inherent qualities of the modest, forgotten substances to determine how these objects can be best transformed, and only then do they address issues of form and function.

Credits: All media
The exhibit featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.