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The works he’s best known for now couldn’t exist without advanced rendering and designing software, sophisticated production processes and an insatiable interest in the next materials, media and modeling tools. His Paved With Good Intentions
series (2005) features stainless steel tables flowing and spreading up walls, serving as both a working surface, a full mirror and a category-defying art object. The popular Ripple Chair
(2006) and ridged, egg-shaped Thumbprint
chairs (2007) both feature concentric oval forms repeating endlessly in a pattern that’s then cast into various materials – stainless steel and polypropylene in those cases – repeated, formed, molded and manipulated into infinitely customizable objects.
Two of the most unusual pieces in No Discipline
suggest the latest mutation in Arad’s oeuvre. At an awkward, bottleneck-prone spot on the floor at the very top of the high-flying exhibition’s figure eight, the Lo-Rez-Dolores-Tabula-Rasa
table (2004) draws surprisingly little attention to itself for a glowing orb over five feet in diameter with a constant loop of low-resolution video projected across its surface. That might be because as it sits on the floor, with its pixilated abstract light show beaming from who knows where, viewers aren’t sure if they should sit on it or walk carefully around it, afraid its seemingly lightweight material might buckle under the slightest amount of pressure. When it’s blank the table’s white surface resembles the fragile shell of an egg, or a helium balloon, but the material is in fact Corian
, a complex compound manufactured by the chemical giant DuPont, but relatively obscure in design circles since being invented forty years ago. DuPont approached Arad to create an object with the material, and this dazzling, ephemeral combination of a disco ball and a coffee table with a projector built into it was the result.
If the exhibition has a centerpiece – debatable, since Arad’s display system creates at least four major focal points – that climactic creation is also one of the most hopeful objects on view. Lolita
, also from 2004, is a five-foot tall, 350-pound chandelier made of a continuous, spiraling stripe of LED lights. If all it did was sit there glowing, it would already be something magical, but Arad is more than just a designer with flair: he’s a showman. Accordingly, Lolita
is also a screen for messages, which scroll down its unfurling band towards its tip. Better yet, you can send a text message (to 917-774-6264) and it – maybe it makes more sense to call Lolita
“her” in light of this feature – will display your words within a minute.
In pieces like these programmable media artworks, Arad suggests a way forward for furniture design that has less to do with ownership of singular or exclusive objects than it does with communal experience and interactive properties. In short, amid all the coiled chairs, reflective surfaces and brilliant colors, he’s exploring ways to make furniture design relevant to the lives of a larger public than the tiny tax bracket that can afford to buy original Arad works. The creative middle ground he’s exploring with this kind of object is an area too often left unexplored in a furniture design world defined by its polar extremes of luxury frivolities and thoughtless affordable basics.