R & Company announces the 2015 installment of their annual guest curator exhibition: Difficult, curated by Jim Walrod. The exhibition is the first to explore some of the less-than-laudatory initial responses -- ranging from bemusement to confusion to mockery to outright scandal and disgust -- to works that have since become icons of 20th century design. The exhibition opens on September 8th from 6-8 pm. Mr. Walrod will be present for the opening.
According to mid-century lore, Verner Panton's "Cone" chair had to be removed from a New York shop window when it débuted because its form was so shockingly futuristic and gravity-defying that it caused traffic accidents from rubber-necking passersby. Ed Frank, one of the owners of the Frank Bros. store in Los Angeles where chairs by Charles and Ray Eames first appeared on the retail market (hung from the ceiling no less) recounts that, "My brother and I used to go by the store at night just to watch people's reaction. Most were incredulous, some amused and some people were just laughing. But, also, there were architects and particularly professionals who were very happy about the fact that they could buy the kind of furniture they only saw in magazines. And that was all in 1947."
As early as 1944, T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings' book Goodbye, Mr. Chippendale offered a mocking view of modern furniture and, as the modernist movement gained momentum and influence throughout the next few decades, a secondary narrative was built alongside it, reflecting the reactions of those who found it overly uptight, futuristic, strange, uncomfortable and downright difficult.
With a balance of humor and gravitas, and the benefit of hindsight, Difficult will explore these reactions through text, video clips, archival images and advertisements and, of course, the works themselves. The exhibition will also explore the idea of 'trends,' and how they affect the market and the access new collectors have to iconic works. Statements about the theme, appearing in the exhibition as wall text, will be contributed by Peter Halley, Will Cotton, Leo Fitzpatrick, and Omar Sosa, among others.
About the exhibition, Mr. Walrod says, "As with art, architecture or anything else of beauty, time is the only real critic that matters. I wish I had a dime for every time I showed a client a piece of design and had them look at me as if I was crazy only to have them ask me if I could find them the same piece a few years later. The exhibition is hopefully about how time judges design not critics." R & Company principal Evan Snyderman echoes the sentiment, "Throughout history, objects of design, like art, have been scorned by the established style mongers of their day. What Jim Walrod shows in this exhibition is that there is no definition of good taste or bad taste. We only have our opinions and, luckily, opinions are susceptible to change."
Difficult will remain on view through October 29th, 2015.