Carolien Vlieger (Dutch, born 1975) and Hein van Dam (Dutch, born 1964) of Vlieger & Vandam (The Netherlands, est. 2004), Guardian Angel handbag. 2002, Leather and wool felt, 13 x 10 x 3", Manufactured by Vlieger & Vandam, The Netherlands (2004), Gift of Vlieger & Vandam.

Matthias Megyeri (German, born 1973). Mr. Smish & Madame Buttly Razor Wire, from the Sweet Dreams Security series. Prototype. 2003. Steel, 40 x 40 cm x desired length. Lent by Matthias Megyeri. (c) 2008 The Museum of Modern Art.

Radical and Emotional Engagement in Design from the MoMA Collection

Jordi Canudas (Spanish, born 1975), Less Lamp, 2007, Plaster, 9-13/16 x 7-7/8", Manufactured by Metalarte, Spain 2008, Gift of the designer.

Jordi Canudas (Spanish, born 1975), Less Lamp, 2007, Plaster, 9-13/16 x 7-7/8", Manufactured by Metalarte, Spain 2008, Gift of the designer.

Oki Sato (Canadian, born 1977), nendo (Japan, est. 2002) . Cabbage Chair. 2007. Pleated paper, roll: 36 x 20" (91.4 x 50.8 cm); open: 73.7 x 83.8 cm). Gift of the designer. (c) 2008 The Museum of
Modern Art


Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York
The Philip Johnson Architecture
and Design Galleries
Rough Cut: Design Takes a Sharp Edge
November 26, 2008-October 12, 2009

Rough Cut: Design Takes a Sharp Edge, an installation in The Philip Johnson Architecture and Design Galleries on the third floor, showcases 98 objects in the Museum’s collection whose impact is due not to their graceful formal qualities but to their designers’ radical engagement with meaning and emotion. The selection of works range from striking posters to chairs, and from videos to vehicles designed for harsh terrains and unforgiving circumstances. The exhibition is organized by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, and Patricia Juncosa Vecchierini, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art.

According to the curators: “Good design is not always pretty, but when it is good, it is undeniably powerful, meaningful, and beautiful. It is a common mistake to equate design with decoration and embellishment, but design is not simply a matter of giving a pleasing form to a functional object.”

Some of the objects in the exhibition bare it all, dispensing with surface treatments to expose the processes of their creation, like Nendo’s Cabbage Chair (2007). Others, such as Konstantin Grcic’s MYTO chair (2007), which is compact, stackable, suitable for in and outdoor use, and entirely recyclable, distill design down to its strongest expression while pushing materials to the limit. Some of these objects are blunt and unadorned because they must be easy to use in an emergency, for instance, the Lifestat Emergency Pocket Airway (1970) by Ronald J. French. Others defy authority and challenge reality, conveying a view of the world that, although positive and hopeful, may at first be disquieting, as seen in The Priscila Huggable Atomic Mushroom (2004) by Dunne and Raby. Some objects are outright aggressive, even brutal; for example, those whose job is to deliver a loud and clear message with urgency, such as the Guardian Angel Handbag (2002), designed by Carolien Vlieger and Hein van Dam, which features the outline of a knife on the outside of the bag, creating a three-dimensional illusion that a knife is actually being carried in the bag, with the intent to make the wearer feel secure against thieves. In graphic design, toughness can be a manifestation of the idea the designer wishes to communicate, as in the poster Racism (1993) by James Victore, a response to the riots between Hasidic Jews and African Americans in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in summer 1993. Through this straightforward depiction of the word racism eating itself, the designer brings attention to its destructive essence.

Design can express values that go well beyond form and function. Some objects are designed to provoke strong emotions, such as Matthias Megyeri’s Sweet Dreams Security series (2003-04), which includes iron railings with bunny rabbits for posts, and Hill Jephson Robb’s Cries and Whispers cocoon (2003), a womblike structure made of felt that is intended to restore a child’s feeling of security. Others, including Noam Toran’s video Desire Management (2004-06), formulate human needs and aspirations for the future, while the Architecture and Justice from the Million Dollar Blocks project (2006), recently seen in the exhibition Design and the Elastic Mind, exists to denounce the world’s stark realities. Installed near the elevators are timely examples of past and present “protest by design,” including recorded performances by Ant Farm and Graffiti Research Lab.

Anthony Dunne (British, born 1964), Fiona Raby (British, born 1963), and Michael Anastassiades (Cypriot, born 1967), Priscila Huggable Atomic Mushroom, from the Design for Fragile Personalities in AnxiousTimes project. Prototype. 2004. Reflective fabric and polyester stuffing, 27 x 30 cm diam. Craig Robins Purchase Fund. (c) 2008 The Museum of Modern Art.

Amanda Knox (American, born 1975), Kim Hoffmann (American born 1975), and Sara Shaughnessy (American, born 1979) of RedStart Design, LLC, (USA, est. 2004), Subtle Safety Defensive Ring. 2003. Sterling silver and stainless steel, 2.5 x 2.5 x 1 cm,. Manufacturer:
RedStart Design, LLC, USA (2004). Gift of RedStart Design, LLC. © 2008 The Museum of Modern Art.

James Powderly (American, born 1976), Evan Roth (American, born 1978), and Theo Watson (British, born 1981) Graffiti Research Lab (USA, est. 2006), L.A.S.E.R. Tag video of interventions (video still). 2007-08. 60 mW green laser, digital projector, camera, and custom GNU software (L.A.S.E.R. Tag V1.0, using OpenFrameworks). Gift of F.A.T. Lab. (c) 2008 The Museum of Modern Art

Ralph Borland (South African, born 1974), Suited for Subversion Prototype. 2002, Nylon-reinforced PVC, padding, speaker, and pulse reader, 47-1/4 x 31-1/2 x 23-5/8”, Fund for the Twenty-First Century.