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Grand-Hornu presents an exhibition of works by British designer Michael Young
Projects in aluminium by Michael Young-07 © CID Grand-Hornu Photo David Marchal.

BOUSSU.- This exhibition, dedicated to Michael Young’s aluminum works, aims to give a broad overview of the designer’s career by focusing on his large production in this special material, illustrated here by a wide range of projects covering various categories of objects.

The British designer who has been based in Hong Kong for many years uses aluminum extensively, combining it with his fine talent to create both mass-produced works and limited editions. The comprehensive exhibition al(l) Projects in aluminum by Michael Young presented in the CID space at Grand-Hornu highlights the great potential of this material: its flexibility, particular aesthetic, lightness and solidity have infused many of the designer’s creations throughout his longstanding, worldwide activities. Experimenting is crucial in Michael Young’s practice and the exploration of different resources is his ultimate passion. Born in Sunderland, the British designer renowned for his nomadic way of life, Michael Young has set up his studios between Brussels and Hong Kong. In Asia, he has tested the most advanced and sophisticated design manufacturing processes for more than a decade, focusing on different kinds of materials, although his aluminum projects are really outstanding in terms of their unique approach and special twists.

The highly fascinating and evocative architecture at the CID greatly influenced Michael Young when preparing the layout of the exhibition: each of the 12 niches that define the space of the Écuries contains a specific project by the designer that includes aluminum in some way. From a selection of Oxygen Chairs presented with their molds and with an aluminum cookie, to a version of the famous Giant City Speed bike displayed with its aluminum frame parts, to the whole Lancaster collection composed of a chair, bar stool and table manufactured by Emeco in polished aluminum and oak; from the Bayer Shelving by EOQ complete with its copper and grey links and the pendant Dub Lights and Otto Stool, presented as a group of sculptures on the wall but still showing the associated die tool to emphasize their production method; a mirror-polished Chair 4A hangs on the wall, in exploded form so as to clearly show how every component is cast in aluminum. The Hex Collection reflects part of Young’s research in the free context that only limited editions can provide, unchained from the strict rules of mass production: on show, a table, sink and shelf offer a remarkable insight into the far-reaching production exploration which hallmark these pieces; pushing the limits of factories for manufacturing of components used in building computer hardware, the research involved the investigation of 3D computer technology. A similar investigation can be seen in another series, Metal Rock, also conceived for collectible design by gallery owner Veerle Verbakel, composed of various items in aluminium foam. Last but not least, a 1.1 black version of a Moke Car is exhibited in its entirety – some of whose parts are in aluminum.

With a highly structured layout of 12 installation islands, arranged in an L-shape—a further reference to the title of the show—the main space in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Grand-Hornu becomes some sort of picture perfect of all Young’s multifaceted activity.

A side room linked to the main space called The Crypt is dedicated to a refined selection of historical and contemporary objects, an outstanding series of items made in aluminum selected by the designer and the curator: among them are remarkable pieces by pioneers such as Jean Prouvé, Charles and Ray Eames, a lounge chair by Marcel Breuer along with more recent objects such as the famous Olympic Torch by Barber & Osgerby or a chair by Richard Hutten. The intention of al(l)—the title is self-explanatory: AL is the chemical symbol of aluminum, used here as part of the word all—is to revisit the creations of designer Michael Young in his use of this material by also representing the choral and collective research by some of the most important voices from the international historical and contemporary design scene. Young and Didero have deliberately opted for some unusual choices to trace a parallel history of aluminum. In fact, based on the notion that each designer takes a different approach to any material, the exhibition travels in many different directions and offers many diverse interpretations. The space of The Crypt becomes a tribute room or even an orientation library, as well as being an effective compilation of various material applications.

The exhibition has been completed with several outstanding installations such as The Pendulum, a scenographic device that demonstrates the hidden qualities of carbon fiber which has replaced the attributes of aluminum in modern days factories as well as a 1.1 Moke car.

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