Philippe de Gobert

Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes & des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne

Meessen De Clercq, Brussels, Belgium, 25 February–16 April 2011

An exhibition with works by: Kasper Akhøj (1976, Copenhagen, Denmark. Lives in New York, US); Martí Anson (1967, Mataró, Spain. Lives there); Maria Loboda (1979, Kraków, Poland. Lives in London, UK); Charlotte Moth (1975, Carshalton, UK. Lives in Paris, France); Sarah Ortmeyer (1980, Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Lives there).

'Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes & des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne' (a title which fused the names of the Paris World's Fairs of 1925 and 1937) presented the work of five artists whose work engaged with specific instances of modernity as represented through industrial or domestic designs by overlooked makers. A world-famous tower, a street, a range of furniture, and a modular display system, for example, were metaphorically taken apart before being reconstituted, sometimes literally, through artistic practices and personal affiliations which incorporated historical research, travel, tribute and scenography.

Kasper Akhøj presented a slideshow which comprised the latest chapter in his ongoing research into the modular display system 'Abstracta', originally designed by the Danish architect and designer Poul Cadovius (1911–2011) in the 1960s for a world’s fair. In Akhøj’s travelogue, what appears to be a purely practical system, conceived with reproducibility, easy assembly and storage finds itself forming the shapes of an intriguing and elegantly obsessive narrative.

During the early 1960s Joaquim Anson, the father of Mataró-based artist Martí Anson, developed a range of furniture inspired by modern designs with the aim of offering an affordable and fashionable custom-made range. Forty years on, Anson undertook extensive research to recuperate this social service project of his father and began to produce furniture again under the company name 'JOAQUIMANDSON'. This exhibition was the rediscovered designs’ first public exhibition and included a range of new prototypes available for purchase alongside screenprints and a 1960s lamp by Miguel Milà.

Maria Loboda presented two new works which incorporated printed fabrics inspired by the designs of Sonia Delaunay, Lotte Frömmel-Fochler, Mitzi Friedmann-Otten, and others – or to be more precise, triggered by written descriptions of their geometric textiles. Loboda consulted published texts which tried to describe and communicate the energy of these Wiener Werkstätte and Art Deco patterns in words and then attempted to recreate the designs from what these phrases suggested to her, alongside her memory of such patterns.

Charlotte Moth presented a film comprised of a sequence of black-and-white photographs and nine photographic prints 'The Absent Forms' (2010) and 'The Protagonists' (2010), respectively. Reflective, translucent and opaque panels became protagonists in a series of illuminated crepuscular and nocturnal scenes which took place on a tree lined cul-de-sac. The remarkable modernist buildings of the Paris street – designed as a totality by the little-known architect Robert Mallet-Stevens and constructed in 1926–27 – became like a stage set for the dramatisation of the mechanics of the photographic image, while the soundtrack comprised a recording of an improvised drumming session performed in response to the work by the artist Sean Dower.

Sarah Ortmeyer paid homage to the universal symbol and the iconographic myth that is the Eiffel Tower and the structure’s often-forgotten original engineer, Maurice Koechlin. 'VITRINE MAURICE' (2011) consisted of a series of objects and furnishings – all taken from an undisclosed room – which were laid out in similar fashion to the ‘Collection Yves Saint Laurent et Pierre Bergé’ auction. The items comprised a range of tacit motifs and abstract invocations of the Eiffel Tower’s singularly monumental shape and history.

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