Old School Into New School


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Out of Hand presentsthe Future in rebooted craft museum

Columbus Circle is as crowded as it ever was, but the past decade's renovations with fountains, benches, and plantings make it a prettier place to be. The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) moved to the south side of the Circle in 2008, with a mission of being a creative hub and exploring the materials and processes of artists across disciplines. In short, it's a reboot of the former American Craft Museum that was located across from MoMA.

"Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital" comprises work by successful artists experienced with old-school methods, who are incorporating 3D printing and other digital tools to create museum quality pieces. Organized by curator Ron Labaco, the exhibition features work from 2005 to the present, including objects never presented before in the U.S. by Anish Kapoor, Maya Lin, Greg Lynn, Frank Stella, and many others.


"Brain Wave Sofa" by Lucas Maassen and design studio, Unfold, is an example of computer numerical controlled (CNC) milling. The design of the polyurethane foam and felt sofa is the result of an electroencephalogram brain wave scan created by electrodes connected to Maassen's head. By opening and closing his eyes, his neurofeedback data generates 3D landscape imagery. The resulting computer file is sent to a CNC machine that mills his brain waves in foam for the foundation of the couch. With systems like this, the future is here as designers can fairly create a product with the blink of the eye.


Many objects in the survey are breathtaking, regardless of their backstory. Modeling nature, Joris Laarman's "Bone Armchair," has a sinuous form reminiscent of Art Nouveau. Cast in a single piece, the marble resin furniture was fabricated using a custom developed 3D printed ceramic mold.


Also dazzling in its beauty, is Marc Newson's "Doudou Necklace," a fractal-inspired ornament based on the Julia set, a geometric figure that repeats itself at ever smaller scales and looks the same at all zoom levels. The diamond, sapphire, and white gold piece was modeled digitally using rapid prototyping, then translated into hand drawings for traditional setting by French jewelry house, Boucheron. The necklace is accompanied by a colorful, hypnotic animation that demonstrates the formula discovered by mathematician Gaston Julia in 1915.


A walk through the 120 varied works on display-- portraits, architecture, sculpture, clothing-- is an education in the eclectic range of digital tools. But will computer assistance eventually snuff out the spirit of art? According to curator Labaco, the soul in art lies in the maker, not the medium. "In capable hands one can create beautiful, compelling, delightful, and/or haunting works using digital technologies," he says.


"Out of Hand" at Museum of Arts and Design (MAD),2 Columbus Circlethrough June 1.


Follow Rania Richardson on Twitter: @RaniaRichardson


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