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Exhibition at Cooper Hewitt features recently acquired contemporary works
Enignum Free Form Chair, 2014; Designed and made by Joseph Walsh (Irish, b. 1979) and Joseph Walsh Studio (Cork, Ireland); Olive ash wood stripped into thin layers, then manipulated and reconstructed, suede upholstery; 70 × 125 × 106.5 cm (27 9/16 × 49 3/16 × 41 15/16 in.); Gift of Joseph Walsh, 2015-39-1; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution.

NEW YORK, NY.- Pushing the boundaries of materials, making and form, 43 new objects recently acquired by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum are on view in “Making | Breaking: New Arrivals” on view through Oct. 29. Presented in the museum’s first-floor Process Galleries, the exhibition features contemporary works along with related sketches, prototypes and videos to reveal advances in technologies and techniques and illuminate groundbreaking design thinking.

“Contemporary design is a window into the future as designers wield the latest technologies and manipulate materials to reinvent the familiar or introduce something entirely new and needed,” said Caroline Baumann, director of the museum. “Cooper Hewitt’s permanent collection documents the design process over centuries of progress because we place special emphasis on recording creative breakthroughs. Understanding how a designer transforms plastic into flowing fabric or a poster into digital animation provides visitors with a richer, more holistic view of the impact of contemporary design and designers on our lives.”

Today’s designers frequently experiment with new substances and manufacturing methods or time-honored materials and production processes, often leading to new forms and products. The working sketches, prototypes and videos featured in the exhibition elucidate the making of these objects and help viewers understand how technology such as 3-D printing enables the fabrication of impossibly intricate furniture forms, plastic garments that can drape like fabric, or customized medical devices that are lightweight and strong. The exhibition also examines how designers turn to conventional hand-worked materials such as wood, advancing traditional techniques through a contemporary sensibility, exploring or emulating natural growth processes and forms.

Highlights of the works on view include:

• A prototype for a 3-D printed scoliosis brace, which can be customized to the user, enabling a lightweight, breathable and durable design.

• The bespoke Brompton Folding Bicycle, which can be folded to a third of its size and was conceived as a product to help improve city living and mobility.

• National Design Award winner Aaron Koblin’s Ten Thousand Cents, a digital rendering of a $100 bill created from individually crowdsourced drawings. A $100 bill was divided into 10,000 equal pieces and shared digitally for participants to duplicate for $0.01 per piece.

• Silver artisan Michael Izrael Galmer’s Evening Purse in silver, embellished with a richly sculptural, chrysanthemum motif, along with the corresponding design sketches and models fabricated in plastic and rubber.

• Joseph Walsh’s Enignum chair and preparatory sketches and models. His pieces are all handmade, employing traditional cabinet making and boat building techniques and materials. Conscious of environmental impacts, he sources wood from sustainable local suppliers and intentionally uses most of the tree to minimize waste.

• Ingo Maurer’s LED Wallpaper, a prototype of which was on display in the 2007 exhibition, “Provoking Magic: The Lighting of Ingo Maurer.” The wallpaper is programmable and adds movement and user involvement to what is normally a static experience.

• The Aurora Ray sidewall by Brooklyn-based Calico Wallpapers, which mixes new technology and traditional craft. The paper’s ombré effect was created by painting or dipping the organic linen. A digital print of the dyed linen original was used to create the wallpaper panels.

• The Turgid Dong Accretion vase by The Haas Brothers, a unique vessel with forms suggestive of body parts and organic elements. Wet clay is painstakingly brushed onto damp clay, layer by layer, resulting in a furry texture that the brothers call “a record of time and growth” specific to each piece.

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