When we talk about Pop Art, its often relegated to Warhol’s Soup Cans and Lichtenstein’s over-dramatic tableaus; but it reaches much farther than that. It’s spirit, inspired by culture, became a culture unto itself – entire collections of furniture, architectural statements, and objects of design blossomed from and within this phenomenal period.
Pop Art Design, an exhibition organized by the Vitra Design Museum, one of the preeminent furniture and design museums in the world, examines design’s relationship to architecture, art and everyday culture. Designers such as Achille Castiglioni and the radical art students Franco Audrito and Piero Gatti who founded Studio 65 were just as enamored by the visual onslaught of advertising, the possibility of art to supersede functionality, and the banality of the commonplace that lied at the center of this fantastical movement.
By pairing iconic design objects with artworks from this celebrated era, an obvious cross-pollination between these two creative worlds emerges. And it’s a unique perspective: the juxtaposition of the Castiglioni’s noteworthy Sella Telephone Stool in the same eye line of the equally special Zips by Clive Barker, or Oldenburg’s slick Emerald Pill adjacent to Arman’s surreal Alarm Clocks. One can argue, and I certainly do, that while the two genres are different and each themselves vying for attention and validation (a larger debate for another day); the works here are decidedly interesting. And more so because of the forced conversations this exhibition brings.
Pop Art Design is organized by the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, overseen at the MCA by James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator Michael Darling, and is presented in the Griffin Galleries of Contemporary Art on the fourth floor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, located at 220 E Chicago Avenue, Chicago through March 27.