Wabi-sabi, Jeremy Scott for Adidas, and ornament.

A few weeks ago in my history of  graphic design class, my teacher was sharing the japanese concept of “wabi-sabi”. Wabi-sabi as a concept used in design, seems to be an opposite aesthetic from modernism. While modernism tended towards clean, symmetrical, fluid and smooth design, wabi-sabi finds beauty in imperfection, irregularity, asymmetry, and roughness.

Which then reminded me of Adolf Loos’ rant against ornament being a waste of labor, resources, time and money. Loos is someone who would prefer to buy objects devoid of detailing and decoration and would also prefer to pay more money for something lacking ornamentation.

Loos says “The evolution of culture is the is synonymous with the removal of ornament from utilitarian objects.”

I stumbled upon fashion designer Jeremy’s Scott’s sneaker collaborations with Adidas while browsing the web. His designs are the opposite of Loos’ argument. Devoted sneakerhead fans currently pay specifcally MORE for an ornament of a stuffed animal attached to their sneakers, rather than less, for an unadorned shoe, plain Adidas shoe. “Form follows function” is often quoted as a mantra for good design, but there is really no “function” that enables a sneaker to improve its performance by “sticking a bear on it”. But the whole point of this particular shoe, is the ornament.Image Continue reading

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More ornamental Eye candy from Twemlow’s essay: Prada wallpaper, stoner wallpaper, and the Holland Festival

More eye candy referenced in Alice Twemlow’s essay, The Decriminalization of Ornament

An important theme echoed in Twemlow’s essay is that ornament IS contemporary and relevant to our time. While Adolf Loos’ diatribe on ornament claimed ornament was backwards, degenerate, and useless and that the lack thereof represented progress and truth, Twemlow argues for intention and and meaning contained within ornamentation used today.

She ruminates that, “The decoration we’re seeing today is particular to the time we live in. In many way it is dystopian. There’s the inclusion of urban, dark, and ironic themes, as evident in Geoff McFetridge’s attitude laden takes on patterning in three designs titled ‘Red Dawn’, ‘Stoner Forest’ (see eye no. 47) and ‘All Yesteday’s Parties’. ”

An article in the Stranger, a Seattle weekly, aptly subtitled this work as “The Patterns of Stoner Surburbia”.

The article’s author, Eric Frederickson keenly observes the juxtapositions within McFetridge’s work: “…general pattern with specific incident, abstraction with representation, decoration with social content.” (italics are mine)

Within these 3 patterned works, expect to see images of sasquatches roaming, long-haired surburban kids biking or gettin’ it on, and beer cans and cigarettes interspersed between the prints, amongst other things.  There are social narratives & themes delving underneath the surface of contemporary ornament, as opposed to the strict “beautifying” of object role  that ornament played during the Arts & Crafts period.

Stoner Forest” wallpaper by Geoff McFetridge, his studio, and his wallpaper

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A visual companion to “The Decriminalization of Ornament”

In Alice Twemlow’s essay, The Decriminalization of Ornament, there are several references to designers, galleries, etc., that I was not familiar with. Here’s a handy all-in-one visual companion with links to go along with that essay.

From top left to bottom right

1) Tord Boontje garland light: http://tordboontje.com/

2) Room in the Volkswagon sponsored Project Fox hotel and a video of the hotel’s launch

designers chosen by Die Gestalten

3) Exposif Wallpaper  curated by the Maxalot gallery in Barcelona

4)  Geneviève Gauckler

5) Laurent Fétis

6) a page from a book designed by W.A. Dwiggins

7)a page from Owen Jones’ Grammar of Ornament (1856)

8) Goudy typeface by Frederic Goudy

9) Book cover design by Enid MarxEnglish Popular Art

10) textile design by Hella Jongerius

A heads up on the next few posts…

I’m going to share some images of designers mentioned in Alice Twemlow’s essay, The Decriminalization of Ornament, originally published in 2005 in Eye Magazine, which I will eventually tackle after the eye candy posts.

It just gives a good visual background of the designers she mentions who use ornament in their work and the visual manifestions of contemporary ornamentation.