Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Presents “Solos: New Design from Israel”
In January 2006, Cooper-Hewitt will present “Solos: New Design from Israel,” the first museum exhibition of contemporary Israeli design in the United States. The exhibition, which features more than two dozen prototypes, experimental objects and production pieces conceived and created by designers who live and work in Israel, will be on view from Jan. 27 through April 23, 2006 in Cooper-Hewitt’s new ground-floor gallery. “Solos: New Design from Israel” is organized by guest curator Ezri Tarazi, head of the industrial design graduate program at Bezalel Academy for Art and Design in Jerusalem, and Ellen Lupton, curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt. The exhibition appropriately coincides with the 100th anniversary of Bezalel Academy, a school that has been instrumental in laying the foundations for contemporary Israeli visual culture.
The objects presented in the exhibition, which range from bookshelves to chairs to lighting fixtures, elicit a discourse on the sculptural, material, functional and conceptual possibilities of useful things. They also provide insight into the relationship between designer and manufacturer: Though Israel supports high-tech industry, there are few businesses in the region that manufacture household goods and furniture. The designers featured in “Solos: New Design from Israel” address this constraint by constructing domestic objects from locally sourced, everyday materials, such as designer Tal Gur’s chair and ottoman made of plastic drinking straws that have been fused together with heat.
“Many designers in Israel are not following the new-modernist and neo-pop trends popular in Europe and the United States, which seek to revive the optimism of the 1960s,” said Tarazi. “We are looking for a language of complexity that shows how things in the world really are. People need to recognize and embrace complexity.”
Lupton added, “The objects in this exhibition communicate through their materials and construction. Instead of aspiring to beauty, perfection and finality, they seek out a rigorous plainness and transitional solutions to timeless problems.”
Though some objects in the exhibition are in mass production, most are one-off or small batch pieces created to foster reflection on the design process. The contrast between materials is often highlighted, instead of hidden, and elements are juxtaposed in a frank, even abrupt manner. This material duality is revealed in objects such as stools designed by Raviv Lifshitz that consist of inflated beach balls enclosed within wire structures. Themes of rupture and discontinuity also are present in many of the designs, including a set of ceramic mugs by Yuval Tal whose handles have been broken off and then re-attached through blatantly mechanical means. Many of the objects in the exhibition have a rough, unfinished character that provokes conceptual questions about how everyday objects are made and used. For example, an installation by Tarazi consists of furniture that unfolds out of its own shipping crates, commenting on the itinerant nature of museum exhibitions as well as life in a global society.
“Solos: New Design from Israel” is made possible by Connie and Harvey Krueger, Barbara and Morton Mandel, and Myrna and Isaac Kaye. Additional support is provided by Dr. Marcella Brenner and The Polonsky Foundation.
About the “Solos” Series
The “Solos” series was launched in 2003 to showcase innovations in the field of architecture and design, including designs new to the market or to construction, or new design in the research and development stage. Each installation explores a singular work or theme and examines its development, creative process and innovative qualities. Past exhibitions in the “Solos” series include “SmartWrap,” (2003) which featured a concept for a new building material that integrates the previously segregated functional components of a conventional wall into one composite film that can be erected in a fraction of ordinary building time, and the architectural prototype “FutureShack,” (2004) which was designed to address the need of low-cost housing for refugees and the homeless by re-appropriating existing materials.
“Though past ‘Solos’ exhibitions have focused on the work of a single artist, ‘New Design from Israel’ represents the cumulative efforts of many designers united by a common place,” said Cooper-Hewitt director Paul Warwick Thompson. SI-416-2005
About Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution
Cooper-Hewitt is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. The museum presents compelling perspectives on the impact of design on daily life through active educational programs, exhibitions and publications. Founded in 1897 by Amy, Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt—granddaughters of industrialist Peter Cooper—as part of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the museum has been a branch of the Smithsonian since 1967.
As the design authority of the United States, Cooper-Hewitt programs and exhibitions demonstrate how design shapes culture and history—past, present and future. The museum presents design along a historic continuum, balancing contemporary and historic concerns and using 21st-century perspectives to pinpoint themes of enduring interest to design across all centuries. Holdings encompass one of the most diverse and comprehensive collections of design works in existence, tracing the history of design through more than 250,000 objects spanning 24 centuries, from the Han Dynasty (200 B.C.) to the present. The museum’s collections are organized by four curatorial departments: product design and decorative arts; drawings, prints and graphic design; textiles; and wallcoverings.
Cooper-Hewitt is located at 2 East 91st Street at Fifth Avenue in New York City. Hours are Tuesdays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sundays, noon to 6 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Public transit routes include the Lexington Avenue 4, 5 and 6 subways (86th or 96th Street stations) and the Fifth and Madison Avenue buses. General admission, $12; senior citizens and students ages 12 and older, $7. Cooper-Hewitt members and children younger than 12 are admitted free. The museum is fully accessible.