Monday, November 24, 2008

Contemporary Design & Mass Culture, B

Ever since the war ended, different aspects of life, such as the economy, technology, as well as architecture and design had gone through numerous transformation. Shapes, forms, materials, color-palettes, ornamentation, and methods of construction of objects became simpler, more mass-produced, and highly advertised in order to accommodate the modern society who experienced the loss after the war and demanded a much more efficient lifestyle. In the 1960s, the division between "good design" and mass-production began to somewhat blurry as home furniture and accessories stores, such as Habitat marketed their goods on interior displays (Raizman, p. 318). In addition, synthetic plastic became the new and popular material for the production of furniture. For instance, British industrial designer, Robin Day designed the Polyprop Chair in 1963, from which the name of the seating corresponded to polypropylene, a synthetic plastic used as the main material (Raizman, p. 317). Since people were looking for more ease and efficiency in furniture, these chairs were designed to be stackable; hence, they became easy to store, and people were able to save some space in their homes. Although there was a connection between home furnishing and fine arts, these mass-produced goods were more sleek and simplified in general as designers and the overall society opted for standardization because of its easy assembly and lower production cost. Furniture, kitchen appliances, home accessories, and even automobile were more streamlined and rectilinear in form and subdued in color.

Later, the demand of mass-production had apparently influenced the development of mass culture and mass design. Formica, the new plastic material was introduced in 1964 at the New York World's Fair (Raizman, p. 338). This plastic material was usually attached to plywood and used on kitchen furniture. As Formica became more widely advertised, people were able to use the material as prefabricated goods and adjust the design according to individual's personal taste. Later, this influenced the modern society, especially the younger generation to express their individuality and freedom in every aspect of life, such as fashion, arts, design, music, and so on. Fringes or sub-cultures were also created as diversity among groups, such as women, homosexuals, and racial minorities became more visible. These groups were determined to make a statement and get their voices recognized, which was identified by their choices in bold clothing and rock 'n roll music. The emergence of the Beatles was one of the highlights of this new philosophy (Raizman, p. 341). In addition, the search for self-expression led to a number of protests and the emergence of rebellions. The Pop Art style, led by Andy Warhol, was also the product of this new movement (Raizman, p. 342). From the use of mass media, the rebels expressed their protests against discrimination and conformity through graphic design. Posters and album covers were artistically designed as tools for speaking on behalf of freedom. Wall graffiti was also popular among the youth groups as a way of getting their political and social opinion across. This had affected interior design to move towards a more free and contemporary approach. Influenced by the Pop Art movement, design became more abstract, whimsical, and somewhat experimental, which reflected the identity of the young and more liberal minds. The Donna chair, designed by Gaetano Pesce was one of the examples from the Pop Art movement that represented the freedom of women. The curvilinear form and feminine features suggested women figures, whereas the attached, sphere ottoman reflected how women became prisoners in their own society (Raizman, p.348). 

In conclusion, the 1960s was the era of experimentation as people began to search for their identity, develop new attitude, and use design to communicate their minds and ideas in order to be accepted in the society. How do you think Pop Art has affected design today? Was the movement crucial in the development of contemporary design or do you think the whole idea of speaking against conformity was a mess and unorganized? Explain. How was the new materials, such as plastic and Formica, been applied today in design? Give examples.


AinsleyW said...

I think pop art paved the way for many modern artists today. Art up until that point had a stuffy connotation, or at least an association with higher education. In order to do it or understand it you had to be a part of elevated society. Pop art turned that on its head and made it possible for art to be anything it very well pleased. The idea that art is simply an expression of a human soul reacting to society was established then and has become one of my personal philosophies about art. It wasn't so much about making beauty or correct representation of the world, it was about making a statement, saying something, or even saying nothing, so long as the artist was expressing her or himself.

Molly Rowland said...

When I was younger and living in Georgia, I frequently visited the High Museum of Art, or rather, I was dragged there by my mom. However, the only exhibit I can actually remember going to and enjoying was the pop art exhibit.
Before viewing the exhibit, I was a kid, who already had a negative impression of art. A painting was a painting. Galleries were full of landscapes and portraits that all looked the same. It seemed that each exhibit was a big blur of boring. But when I saw a wall full of tomatoe cans the size of me, my negative outlook changed.
I believe my childhood art gallery experience fully portrays the affect of pop art. It was a strong movement into modernism, that provided inspiration for change. Pop art challenged the minds of everyone and everything, including design. Without a challenge, how can the design world make progress?

Kelsey Giauque said...

I agree with what Ainsley said about art influencing modern design. But I also believe the social culture of the time played a major role on the artwork, in turn being reflected in design. The whole philosophy of the 60's era was a complete rejection of tradition and in general, the past. Socially liberal attitudes were embraced and as a result the art and design of the time followed this radical change. The concept of feminism came to the limelight and individual woman began to rise, and the idea of the “traditional” woman of the house was rejected, slowly changing the interior of homes. Technology began to change, especially when the Soviet Union first made it to space, and President Kennedy announced the US would be joining them. Artists like the Beatles, Johnny Cash, and the Beach Boys influenced culture heavily. I believe that as “unorganized” as that time in history was and as many drugs as were illegally used, I think it is exactly what our culture needed. Coming out of a depression, then 2 wars, and a time of extreme conformity, society needed change. It is usually always the case that design follows the culture. The developed use of Formica plastic for veneering and laminates opened a wave of new designs, which have become standard today, like Wilsonart, which carries a line of laminates today.

Chris Jones said...

It sounds like pop art was all about expressing one's inner self and feelings. In my opinion, this is CRUCIAL to design of today's culture. As I have said before, individuality is what makes a designer a designer. How could you even have design without uniqueness? Especially living in the United States of America, every person is entitled to express themselves in various ways. However, there are still people in this country that believe people should be put into this "box" so that everything is "perfect". I can't imagine what this would would be like without diversity! And it's not even about one's race, sexuality, or gender, it goes even deeper than that: what someone wears, their dialect/accent, what color their eyes are. It is amazing to think that not one person on this planet has the same genetical makeup as you. Design should be thought of the same way. Each designer has a reason for why their design is the way it is. Another designer may look at the same thing and will most likely disagree with at least one aspect of the design. It's all in the eye of the beholder. So no, breaking free of conformity is nowhere near "a mess" ;]. Oh, and about the plastics part of it...we wouldn't have those "stupid little plastic-spastics" running around out there...(totally kidding :]). Plastic is cheap and a majority of the human race likes cheap! We like to save that money and spend it on nice things for ourselves. The fact that plasitc can be made into something beautiful and it serves its function is the selling point.

Elizabeth Chaffin said...

During the times of pop art and the 60s era, the way of life was very free and suited the user. People were free spirited and did what they wanted and not what they wanted to impress others. Expression was seen through forms of art which drastically juxtaposed what had been previously seen or for regular everyday objects to be transformed. For instance, Andy Warhol transformed portraits of famous people (i.e. Marilyn Monroe) and played with the colorization, changing one image into a series of technicolor alterations. Or his banana. Simple objects suddenly become works of art just because they were looked at differently.
Also is with furniture and application of new materials in mass production. Synthetic materials returned to use after the wars, with previous rationing of metals,plastics, nylons, et cetera being issued. Now these materials were put back into play and used to make simple chairs or tables, but could easily be changed by their color or shape of one component. I find that this time period was essential to the arts and the world alike. It shaped our cultures and viewings of such to be open and accepting to change and the ways of which were weren't used to.

This blog is intended for the interior design students in the college of design at the University of Kentucky. It was created with the intent to present students with information, providing them with a channel for contemplation and discussion.