Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What is iconic today? (Part 2)

There are few moments in life where a simple but profound statement can define our thinking forever. It happened to me during a lecture I once attended on the recondite subject of financing models for cultural initiatives, when the speaker said: 
"... the value of art is in conversation ..."
Perhaps it is a simplistic view but I have often engaged in discussions with friends about what makes a painting, a photo, a musical composition, a building or an interior be associated with Art. All too often our exchanges hover around issues of taste or currents or social structures or historical context, or just plain old "educated art criticism".

However simple, the notion that art has value when it animates human communication resonated with me. I don't think art is about taste or fashion, or even schools of thought. Artistic creations that have value are the ones that are able to generate sophisticated exchanges of thoughts and ideas, that make us question assumptions and preconceived notions. 
Real art generates timeless interest because it provides an answer to many questions, and sometimes many answers to the same question.
In my last blog post, I discussed the over-use of the word "iconic" to describe  aspirations of very diverse examples of contemporary design. Too many times we see “iconic” mistaken for authenticity, for picturesque or for elegance. People tend to confuse the meaning of iconic traits with memes, or with pastiches and replications of what was once original and modern.

On some level, I think that it is partially the result of a declining importance of cultural studies, and it is also the result of the loss of the richness of language in the abbreviations and zingers popular in the modern ways of communication. But it is also because we aren't always as demanding as we should be in the recognition of artistic creations.

Not all experimentation is Art, in the same way that not all writing is literature. Art, as well as Design, must question assumptions, generate dialogue, provoke thoughts and leave us wanting to explore it further. And in the case of Design, if those concepts can translate into reality and they transcend the thinking of their time, then we can start thinking about  calling them "iconic", and most of all start thinking about calling them Art.

I find many examples today of artists that have been pushing the boundaries of their time, creatively as well as scientifically. These are some of those that I believe have been enriching our conversations:

Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid creates buildings and spaces that define the transition of architecture to the 21st century, but she also creates important moments in cityscapes that are identifiable and push the boundaries of the built environment. She innovates with shapes around building functions and explores materials and aesthetics with elegance and originality. And not only her buildings, but her drawings are Art, and they generate their own conversation.

Architectural art by Zaha Hadid

Christo & Jeanne-Claude

Jeanne-Claude & Christo (Sydney Morning Herald - 14/12/2007)

My first exposure to Christo's work was with his Pont-Neuf project in 1985. I was in Paris on a school holiday walking around near Ile-de-la-Cite and did not understand at first why the bridge was wrapped. It looked like it was under construction by the cleanest and most careful builders. The loud arguing I could hear was not surprising in France, but it was only when I realized that people were arguing about the wrapping, and whether it was art or not, that it struck me how fabulous the idea was and how it created spontaneous dialogue between strangers about their involvement in an artistic experiment.

The Pont Neuf Wrapped, photograph 1985
The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975-85, by Wolfgang Volz
When I got back home I researched the artist, in the old fashioned library-kind-of-way. I learned how his projects focused on the conversation that can be generated about the things that surround us and that can be viewed in a different way. A few years later I became good friends with someone who knew Christo personally and had spent time with him during the Reichstag project. It was wonderful to hear first-hand what his process was and the thoughts he expressed were while working over the scale models. In 2005, on a cold February morning, I experienced the Gates in Central Park, with sheer luck that a business trip coincided with the event. Christo & Jeanne-Claude are true icons of contemporary art, and their creations will last though imagery and oral tradition. I for one will continue talking about their work.

Dianne von Furstenberg

If there is one artistic discipline that intersects with interior design in ways that prove mutually inspiring, that's fashion. Wherever designers explore colors, patterns and textures, we learn from their experiences. DVF has always had a particular appeal to me, and she is quite unique in her style. I think bold statements with pattern are difficult to achieve in a tasteful way but she rarely misses the mark on elegance and sophistication, whether it is one of her signature wrap dresses or a long gown. I think she is a true definer of the taste of her time. Oh, and my wife has never looked so beautiful as in one of her black and white color-blocked dresses...

1 comment:

  1. I still love the DVF dress, bought at Josephs in London and worn on a few very special moments together. The love shared between Christo & Jeanne_Claude is also one that inspires me. Iconic, a husband and wife team that can create, and let each other shine and grow together.. Beautiful post. Thought provoking. XO