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Special Report

Ingo Maurer - Light -
Reaching for the Moon

Ingo Maurer
Ingo Maurerís Workshop
Vitra Design Museum

Ingo Maurer
Light Installation with Ya YaHo (1985)
and Symphonia Silenziosa
Photo: Thomas Dix/Vitra Design Museum

Ingo Maurer
MaMo Nouchies, 1998
Design: Dagmar Mombach, Ingo Maurer and Team
Photo: Thomas Dix/ Vitra Design Museum


WEIL AM RHEIN, GERMANY.- The Vitra Design Museum presents ďIngo Maurer - Light - Reaching for the Moon,Ē on view through August 10, 2003. No other designer has shown as much commitment and devotion to the design of and with light as Ingo Maurer (b. 1932). To date he has produced more than 120 different lamps and lighting systems, graced countless exhibitions with his installations and artfully illuminated a multitude of public buildings and private homes. Working in close cooperation with the award-winning designer, the Vitra Design Museum is presenting the exhibition Ingo Maurer - Light - Reaching for the Moon from October 3, 2002, through August 10, 2003. Designed by Dieter Thiel, the show gives an overview of Maurerís work going back almost four decades, featuring rare prototypes, serially produced lamps and one-off pieces as well as models, photographs and films documenting a number of his outstanding illumination projects. Special highlights are the installations Maurer created especially for the exhibition.

The initial trigger for Maurerís self-taught career in lighting design was his fascination with the light bulb as the "perfect union of technology and poetry." Inspired by Pop Art, he designed Bulb (1966), a table lamp in the form of a giant light bulb and homage to Edisonís ingenious invention that has established itself as a classic in its own right. With later designs like the programmatic Nofuss (1969) or the simple yet elegant Savoie (1979, with Donato Savoie), Maurer has continued to celebrate the simple beauty of the bare light bulb. Lucellino (1992), the bulb with angelís wings made from goose feathers, is one of his most renowned pieces and something of a trademark for the designer.

Working from his adopted city of Munich, the designer is neither a minimalist nor a dogmatist strictly following a rigid design theory. Quite the opposite, Maurerís work is characterized by tremendous diversity. For him, design is a joyful science for which he frequently finds inspiration in everyday objects. For the table lamp BiBiBiBi (1982), he used red plastic bird legs he came across in a supermarket; Mozzkito (1996) is based on a standard tea strainer fitted with a halogen bulb; and the chandelier Porca Miseria! (1994) with its collage of white porcelain shards looks like the aftermath of an explosion in a china cupboard.

Seeming rather restrained, even poetic at times, by contrast, are the lamps he constructs from paper. Schooled as a typographer, Maurer has come to appreciate this materialís qualities as a light filter and reflector, turning to it again and again in his works and experimentations since the 1970s. Prominent examples include the table lamp Lampampe (1980) with its shade and base in translucent Japanese paper as well as Zettelíz (1997), a central lighting element encircled with numerous slips of white paper, some with pre-printed sayings, others left blank to be scribbled on and positioned as desired. A pleasantly warm glow is yielded by the MaMo Nouchies (1998), a lamp series developed by Maurer (Ma) in collaboration with Dagmar Mombacher (Mo) that is reminiscent of Isamu Noguchiís akari lamps (Nouchie) yet with an aura that is quite its own. Based on a traditional Japanese textile dyeing technique, the sculptural lampshades made from pleated paper are handcrafted in a process involving up to eight production steps.

With many of these remarkable lamps, their realization hinges on Maurerís intense involvement in the process. He not only designs everything himself but - a rare exception among his peers - also produces everything himself in his Munich-based factory. The designerís development department - internally given the straightforward name "Designerei," or designery - furthermore often allows Maurer to be ahead of his time in technical terms as well. In 1984, for instance, the company introduced the YaYaHo lighting system based on low-voltage technology. With a pair of conductor cables stretched across the room from which halogen lamps are suspended in any desired combination, its reduction to the essentials offers a maximum of flexibility. To the same degree unfortunately, it has since been copied by a host of imitators. The Touchtronic System developed by Hermann Kovacs for Ingo Maurer Ltd. two years later introduced continuously variable touch-triggered dimming.

Just as halogen lamps - once used exclusively for vehicle headlights - revolutionized lighting design in the 1970s and took residential interiors by storm, LED technology (light-emitting diode) appears destined to conquer the future. For light-emitting diodes are small, durable and extraordinarily efficient. Here as well, Ingo Maurer was at the forefront with La Bellissima Brutta (1997) as one of the first to recognize LEDís potential. The cool aesthetic of Yoohoodoo (1999), Stardust (2000) or El.E.Dee (2001) plays with the experimental character inherent in the pioneering work with this forward-looking technology.

Since the 90s, the MoMA-celebrated Maurer has increasingly turned his attention to development of complete lighting concepts for private and public clients. For the interior lighting of the Westfriedhof subway station in Munich (1998), he created giant dome-shaped ceiling lamps in aluminium with the inside surfaces lacquered in different colors to imbue the light with a unique tone. Another major commission was the collaboration with his friend Ron Arad on lighting design for the Tel Aviv Opera House (1994). With a sky of seemingly floating, small colourful sails, Maurer put Issey Miyakeís Paris fashion show in a favorable light (1999). That same year, the lighting artist set the fashion designerís London showroom aglitter under a filigree cloud adorned with hundreds of silver leaves that reflect the light and shimmer upon catching a draft. Currently working on a piece for the Toronto international airport among other projects, Maurer is being honored with this yearís Design Excellence Award from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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