The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is pleased to present the SFMOMA Experimental Design Award honoring architect Thom Faulders, furniture designer Donald Fortescue and graphic designers Gigi Obrecht and David Karam of Post Tool Design. The exhibition is organized by Ruth Keffer, SFMOMA curatorial associate for architecture and design, and will be on view at SFMOMA from November 10, 2001, through February 5, 2002.
Established this year by the Museum’s auxiliaries In/Site and the Architecture and Design Forum (A+D Forum), the award honors up-and-coming Bay Area designers and architects whose work is experimental in nature and who have not been the subject of a major museum exhibition. From Web sites and furniture to real and theoretical structures, the winners’ works represent the full breadth of current architecture and design experimentation in the Bay Area by offering new ways of understanding the spaces, objects and images of everyday life. “These award recipients take risks, they challenge the rules and they seek to transform the role of design in our lives,” states Keffer. “Each approaches design as the means to craft an experience, an environment of activity and behavior in which the subjective response of the user (the human factor) is the critical component.”
Based in Oakland, California, Thom Faulders established his studio Beige Design in 1998. Often mixing the provocative with the bland, Faulders experiments with hybrid surfaces and interactive materials to create new spatial experiences. His designs and explorations of form have been widely exhibited at such international venues as the School of Architecture at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, the Centre d’Art d’Herblay in Paris and many American institutions. Last year, Faulders created Mute Room, 2000—an installation composed of 2,000 feet of pink memory foam that responds to each viewer’s body and creates an ideal lounging environment for experimental electronic music—for the California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC). Faulders received his advanced diploma in architecture from the Cranbrook Academy of Art after working for the conceptual architecture and theory group Superstudio in Italy. Faulders, a frequent lecturer, has taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and KTH in Stockholm, and he is currently adjunct professor of architectural design at CCAC in San Francisco. His work has been published internationally, most recently in Japan, Holland, England, Germany and Italy. He has received two American Institute of Architecture Awards for hypothetical and built projects.
For the exhibition, Faulders is creating a site-specific installation titled Particle Reflex consisting of monochromatic urethane rubber panels connected together to delineate a geometrically complex volume of space. The 16 x 7 x 16-foot work defines surface as interactive and reactive, replacing the assumption that walls are unyielding, fixed barriers. The exhibition also features over 15 other works including some studies and drawings from previous projects and the work Undercover Table, 1999, from SFMOMA’s permanent collection.
Based in Alameda, California, Donald Fortescue has focused on both functional design and formal sculpture for the past two decades in his native Australia as well as Japan and the United States. Trained as a furniture designer at the Canberra School of Art in Australia, Fortescue notes “the main legacy of my craft roots is my obsession with process and materiality. All of the materials I use—wood, plywood, stainless steel, Lycra, cast bronze, glass, among others—are left in their purest state.” By contrasting such media and often employing patinas and marks, Fortescue highlights the inherent, synthetic nature of many of his materials and seeks to explore “the passage of time, as part of the process of creation and its role in the aging and decay of the finished work.” While almost purely sculptural, his most recent series, Empty Vessels, emphasizes the forms and practice of design and craft and is seen by the designer as a sequence of containers. Fortescue’s work has been included in numerous group and solo exhibitions in Australia, Taiwan, Brazil and the United States, most recently in Empty Vessels at the John Elder Gallery in New York City. He is currently associate professor and chair of the wood/furniture program at CCAC.
The exhibition features eight works by Fortescue including Bask, 1995, Pike (Basking), 2000 and Pip, 2001.
Post Tool Design (Gigi Obrecht/David Karam)
The San Francisco–based firm Post Tool Design was founded by Gigi Obrecht and David Karam in 1993 in order to provide “creative navigational solutions in a post-industrial, post-tool environment.” According to Obrecht and Karam, “The proliferation of ideas, information and images that is so striking a feature of our time has rendered our mental geographies so complex that we cannot hope to find out way through them unescorted. The burgeoning world of New Media needs guides and mapmakers, and our ambition is to contribute to this effort.” Combining two different approaches to these solutions—Obrecht was trained as an artist and art historian at Skidmore College in New York while Karam studied music and computer science at the University of Texas, Austin—they create multimedia design for such clients as Apple Computers, California Institute of the Arts, Dwell magazine, Penguin Putnam Publishing, Swatch Watch and the Getty Information Institute. One of Post Tool’s latest projects is a Web site for Revelatory Landscapes, an off-site landscape architecture exhibition at SFMOMA; the site includes video-streaming technology, interactive maps and multimedia essays, all united by the designers’ trademark playfulness and intelligence.
Most recently, Post Tool created Variations, which consists of a rewired organ, two computer monitors and a multimedia program. Variations continues their ongoing investigation into the communicative potential of dynamic computer-driven design to transform and enliven the world. The exhibition also features three previous works—Cardinal Directions, 2000, Post TV, 1997 and Listen, 1999.
The SFMOMA Experimental Design Award results from a collaboration between In/Site and the A+D Forum two of SFMOMA’s most visible and successful auxiliaries. Since 1967, In/Site (formerly SECA) has honored contemporary Bay Area painters and sculptors with its biennial SECA Art Award; In/Site will continue to sponsor the program. Consistent with other SECA awards, the SFMOMA Experimental Design Award targets designers working at a high level of artistic maturity whose work has not, at the time of recommendation, been accorded substantial recognition. Recipients of the SFMOMA Experimental Design Award were selected after a rigorous one-year process that included nominations, applications and studio visits. Involving the Museum and local art and design communities, the award winners were selected by Aaron Betsky, former SFMOMA curator of architecture, design and digital projects, in consultation with a joint committee of the A+D Forum and In/Site, chaired by A+D Forum member Gary A. Dexter, PhD.
SFMOMA Experimental Design Award is funded by the Bay Area Contemporary Arts Exhibition Fund, and by the Architecture + Design Forum and In/Site, auxiliaries of SFMOMA. The cash prize is made possible by Helen Hilton Raiser, Gary Dexter and Rica Lakamp.
As part of the 2001 Architecture Lecture Series, there will be a panel discussion on Monday, November 26 at 7 p.m. at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater featuring the Experimental Design Award winners. The panel will be moderated by Aaron Betsky, former SFMOMA curator of architecture, design and digital projects. Tickets are $25 and are available through the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Box Office. For more information call 415/978-2787.
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Organic/Inorganic: Selections from the Permanent Collection of Architecture and Design
With more than 20 architectural models, drawings and design objects, Organic/Inorganic investigates the interface between the human body and nature. While some design rejects nature altogether, some tries to improve upon nature by artificially recreating it. Ranging from the creepy to the ethereal, this focused exhibition—including works by Lebbeus Woods, Neil Denari and Aziz + Cucher—explores the questions of how (and why) design reinforces the mistaken notion that humans exist apart from nature.