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Deep Surface

CAM Raleigh in North Carolina presents an exhibition which shows that ornament is reinvigorating design.

By Cassandra Pizzey / 20-10-2011

Incorporating all facets of design (architecture, products, graphics, interactive media and fashion) curator Susan Yelavich describes the exhibition as "the first of its kind"

What prompted this exhibition?

"My co-curator Denise Gonzales Crisp was invited to develop an exhibition on ornament and pattern at Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) Raleigh, and approached me to work with her."

"The real reason Denise and I wanted to do this show is that ornament, long disparaged, has been reinvigorating design in new ways. Ornament is a non-verbal language which may be more powerful in our day and age."

Dutch design and designers have been given a prominent position in the exhibition  with designs by the likes of Hella Jongerius, Marcel Wanders and Richard Hutten on show.
Dutch design is featured heavily in the exhibition, what role would you say the Netherlands play in pattern and ornament design?

"Dutch designers are especially gifted in using the ornamental languages that are tacitly or overtly part of Dutch culture. In the process, designers like Niels van Eijk and Miriam van der Lubbe, are questioning what it means to be Dutch today in pieces like their Souvenir windmills."

"Whether their history is what makes Dutch designers so attuned to the possibilities of bringing the past into the present, as Hella Jongerius does with her Sampler Blankets, is not possible to verify, but it is interesting nonetheless."

The exhibition itself is divided into six categories (Amplification, Elaboration, Inheritances, Kit-of-Parts, Fantasy and the Everyday) which also feature in an essay written by Yelavich and Crisp. The various designers are housed within a theme specific to their work. "We had little trouble identifying the qualities we were looking for" says Yelavich.

"From an experimential point of view, I like the range of objects and scale that make the installation so inviting. From a curatorial point of view, the most compelling thing is that visitors can see how ornament can animate objects and places of daily life and provide an alternative to the conformist quality of the material landscape most people take for granted."

"From a personal point of view, I am especially happy that we were able to get so many of my favorite Dutch designers and able to include Czech designer Maxim Velcovsky's Vase of Vases."

What would you visitors to take away after visiting the exhibition?

"That ornament is meant to be read. That design tells stories and can tell even better, more complex stories of who we are today and what we might yet be."

The exhibition Deep Surface is on show until 2 January 2012 at CAM Raleigh.

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