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"Against Design: Art, Utility, and Design "
2001-06-22 until 2001-09-22
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
Kansas City, MO, USA

The exhibition Against Design examines various interpretations of contemporary design and blurs the so-called boundaries between art and design. The exhibition‚s sculptors and painters from California, Canada, Sweden, Germany, New York, and the Netherlands challenge the conventional roles of utility in art and art in design.

Organized around ten artists‚ inquiries into the built environment, the exhibition features works by Kevin Appel, Angela Bulloch, Clay Ketter, Roy McMakin, Jorge Pardo, Tobias Rehberger, Joe Scanlan, Atelier van Lieshout, Pae White, and Andrea Zittel. In the exhibition's catalogue, curator Steven Breyer and essayist Melissa Brookhart note, the artists certainly owe something to both art and design. The against in the exhibition‚s title means alongside as well as in opposition to design. The works‚ placement in a museum setting encourages visitors to consider the roles of utility and art.

In the exhibition, Museum-goers can interact with some of the works, including Tampa Skull, 1998. This enormous, bright blue work by Atelier van Lieshout is actually a compartmentalized living space, complete with bedroom, office, bathroom, and kitchen. Tampa Skull‚s outside appearance is defined by the arrangement of the interior space, and people may crawl inside the 25-foot sculpture to explore it.

In some of the works, the artists doctored standardized furniture to fit the needs of a client, collector, a museum, or themselves, as in Clay Ketter‚s Billy-Bob, 1999. In this sculpture, Ketter reconfigures bookcases from the Swedish furniture superstore IKEA and re-examines the utility of the object and the notion of form following function. Inside the Museum, it‚s a sculpture; outside, it could be a bookcase.

California artists Pae White and Kevin Appel draw on other commercial aspects of creation, such as architecture and advertising. White's colorful and striking images in the 1998 Pony Girl series mirror roadside billboards and perhaps pose the questions When is it an advertisementNULL When is it artNULL Based on concepts of architectural design, Kevin Appel's sophisticated acrylic paintings in some cases resemble abstract views of house floor plans, as seen in House Plan 1 (Green), 1999. A 56-page catalogue, designed by exhibition artist Pae White, accompanies the exhibition and is available for $18.00 in the Museum Shop.

Against Design was organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, and made possible by an Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award. The Exhibition Award program was founded in 1998 to honor Emily Hall Tremaine. It rewards innovation and experimentation among curators by supporting thematic exhibitions that challenge audiences and expand the boundaries of contemporary art.

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