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Artists As Designers

Designers Frank Gehry Chair

Frank Gehry Chair

Michael Beitz Dining Table

Michael Beitz Dining Table

Yoshitomo Nara Speakers Designers

Yoshitomo Nara Doggy Radio

There is a long-standing tradition of artists blurring the boundary between art and design.  With institutions such as MOMA featuring an entire department devoted to architecture and design, it is considered an important part of art history and culture.

I recently heard New York Times art critic Roberta Smith lecture and she mentioned that it’s a shame our society doesn’t place more emphasis on visual literacy education.  If we did she believes that everything in our world, from buildings to city layouts, to objects, would be more aesthetically pleasing.  Here are some instances of artists who emphasized the concept or appearance of an object rather than simply its function, bridging the gap between art and design:

Donald Judd, one of the leaders of Minimalism, has an amazing legacy in design.  Another well-known architect who creates highly designed furniture is Frank Gehry.  Roy McMakin is a Seattle-based artist who usually incorporates an element of verbal pun.  McMakin’s designs feature an overarching investigation of how perception influences meaning.  Hannes Van Severen and Michael Beitz both create captivating, surreal furniture.  Artists like David Shrigley and Adam McEwen work humor into their design-work.  Even artist Yves Klein has a table, created under the direction of his widow, that features his famous blue.  Damien Hirst designed a chair replete with his signature butterflies and Yoshitomo Nara designed “doggy radio,” a fully functional radio in the form of a dog.

It’s not uncommon for artists to create functional objects, but those objects do often stand out for their elevated level of design and conceptual consideration.  If indeed everyone put as much thought into form as they did function the world would probably be a much better looking, or at least a more visually interesting, place.

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Prison Art: The Story Of An Incredibly Detailed Monkey Bar Diorama Made From Scraps And Gifted To Henry Ford

Prison Art Prison Art Prison Art

Henry Ford’s Digital Collections Initiatives Manager Ellice Engdahl recently wrote about one of his favorite artifacts of the 18,000 published online: The Monkey Bar diorama. This diorama was created by a man known as Patrick J. Culhane (various spellings) in 1914-15 during his time at the Massachusetts State Prison at Charlestown where he’d been sent after a conviction of “larceny from a conveyance.” Culhane carved and assembled this incredibly detailed piece of prison art by hand from a variety of materials, including peach pits, and scraps of wood, fabric, metal, cellulose, and plastic, all fitting into a base measuring only 16″ x 20″.

Engdahl notes that Monkey Bars were created by other prisoners in the early 20th century, and that “Culhane intended the diorama to depict many of the worldly pitfalls that had put him and his fellow inmates on a path to prison. The Bar is chock full of monkeys engaged in all kinds of rambunctious activities—drinking alcohol, gluttonous eating, smoking (cigarettes, cigars, and opium), gambling and gaming in many forms (craps, roulette, checkers, shell game, and cards), playing music, monitoring the stock market via a ticker, and even paying off a policemonkey. Clearly some of the monkeys are ready to check into (or out of) the associated hotel, as they have their suitcases with them and keys and mail are visible behind the desk.”

After Culhane finished his piece, he arranged to have it sent to Henry Ford, with a hand-written note, “Presented to Mr. Henry Ford / As a token of appreciation and esteem for his many benevolent and magnanimous acts toward, and keen interest in, prisoners / By A Prisoner.”

Engdahl surmises that Ford became interested in Culhane, and may have a hand in his release from prison, as Culhane was hired to work at the Ford Motor Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1916 and Ford’s secretary corresponded with Culhane regularly.

All photos courtesy of The Henry Ford. (via Slate)

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Andrés Medina

Most of Andrés Medina‘s photographs are of places and things we might overlook or have forgotten about.

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Trenton Doyle Hancock – …And Then It All Came Back To Me

The work of Trenton Doyle Hancock is the focus of …And Then It All Came Back To Me, a new solo exhibit currently at the James Cohan Gallery through December 22.  The Texas-based artist is well known for his exceptionally intricate work and the epic narrative that flows through it.  Hancock seamlessly ties together classical, religious, and pop-culture references and styles into emotionally engaging artwork.  His new series veers from his narrative to a more autobiographical theme and his role as an artist.

Trenton Doyle Hancock was also a featured artist in Beautiful/Decay Issue: V.  Be sure to check it out if you’d like for more of Hancock and his work.

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Philippe Constantinesco

Lovely pencil illustrations and sketches by Philippe Constantinesco.

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Conceptual Graphic Design and Politically-Oriented Installation from British Artist Scott King

 Scott King is bringing some interesting ideas to the table concerning celebrity culture, social revolution, and Globalism. He often includes humorous elements in his work, which is hardly ever a bad thing. King has produced conceptual graphic design, print design, and installation work (large and small) with equal skill and insight. From a piece depicting Ulrike Meinhof as the Mona Lisa, to punk flyers, sculpture, and altered magazine covers, King is doing it. And he’s doing it well.

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Awesome Video Of The Day: Stuff Vs. Stuff

This is what happens in the B/D closet when we’re not around.

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Ione Rucquoi’s Lost Innocence & Sexual Awakening

Ione Rucquoi’s visceral portraits capture a world of lost innocence and sexual awakening, exploring the disowned, unconscious aspects of the self and highlighting the primal instincts of the human character and the beast within. Rucquoi’s affinity with Jung’s psychological concept of ‘The Shadow’ allows her to move effortlessly among the symbolic and darker characteristics of the psyche. Driven by the motivation to make emotion visible through the physical, she explores fundamental elements of human existence and experience: birth,death, loss and change, and brings the hidden and taboo to the forefront.

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