I’ve always thought that Ron Arad’s work is defined by a child-like curiosity: what will happen if I fiddle about with this, just so? His classic Bookworm shelving is an excellent example, intuition bringing the improbable to life. Likewise The Big Easy and Big Rocker – both on display at the new Arad exhibition, In Reverse, at the Design Museum in Holon – sitting chairs made of chrome and stainless steel respectively. They don’t seem to make sense until they are made to happen.
The curatorial notes expand on this theme: “Arad’s work has often taken a counter-intuitive approach to design…(applying) seemingly destructive processes to mass produced objects to render them unique. Although they may lose their functionality, they gain value as one-of-a-kind objects.” It sounds rather like giving a small child free agency with household items. Fun, if perhaps ruinously expensive.
In Reverse, bringing together a selection of Arad’s metal work from the last three decades, has a lot to offer the curious of all ages. Pressed Flowers, the centerpiece of the exhibition, explores the effect of compression on motor cars. Full size motor cars, that is. “It looks like a squashed bug!”, my six year old exclaimed excitedly. There was the small matter of the cars in question being Fiat 500s rather than Volkswagen Beetles, but this is mere detail. Arad’s playfulness speaks clearly to children, it seems. Not just the Pressed Flowers series, but also Roddy Giacosa, a three dimensional counterpart to the former Fiat 500s made out of hundreds of tubular steel bars, and the Squashed Vipp, once a pedal bin and now something…well, something strange and intriguing.
A museum has done its work well if it can find a suitable entree for communicating and contextualising an artist’s intent. Hats off to the Design Museum for making exhibit and experience both accessible for all ages. “Design Detectives”, a tour of the museum for 7-10 year olds, encourages children to use their powers of observation and investigation to explore the language of design – the journey that takes basic materials, through ideas and conception, to the exhibits on display across the museum. Specific to In Reverse, three workshops prompt children (8 and upwards, although the workshops are suitable for younger children accompanied by an adult) to think about Arad’s creative process – using aluminium sheets and hammers to make coins, origami jewellery and the “Iron Man”, a three-dimensional figure.
Ron Arad – In Reverse runs at the Design Museum until 19th October 2013.
Design Detectives, suitable for children between 7-10: July 20/27, August 3/10/17/24/31, September 7/21/28 and October 5/12/19, at 12.30 and 14.30; Additionally, during the school holidays every Tuesday in July at 12.00, and in August every Monday-Thursday at 10.30. Price included with admission.