E Pluribus Unum
This project, DNA, it is far more than the sum of its parts. Three of the world’s leading design galleries have come together, intertwining their programs into a single, generative presentation: a triple helix of creativity. It’s an impressive gathering, and an instructive one. DNA provides a generous cross-section of where design is today, and some of the pathways that have brought it here. What gives it greatest value, though, is the context it provides to each of the designers, by placing them alongside their peers. Individually, the 84 included works are striking, innovative, and provocative by turns. They need no help from anyone to communicate meaning. But seen three by three, in 28 different configurations, they are seen afresh. Even the most replete and self-sufficient of them become part of something bigger, as the groupings accumulate into a single shared story about design.
So it is with this last juxtaposition. At first glance, the three works here have little to do with one another: a vase, a piece of multifunctional furniture, and hanging lamps; an American artist, een nederlanse ontwerper, and deux frères français. Yet we can see, in this cross-cultural, cross-medium, cross-generational comparison, the unique genetic code that lives in all great design. Judd, Jongerius, and the Bouroullec Brothers are equally in command of their materials (copper, ceramic, anodized aluminum), shaping it in ways that exploit its inherent properties, while also pushing at conventional expectation. There is what might be called a controlled extremism in each design, which makes it unforgettable: the absolute precision of Judd’s nested volumes; the stark, primary contrast that Jongerius stages between glaze and naked porcelain; the dramatic, flourishing extent of the Bouroullecs’ vertical lighting fixture. One cannot make objects like this while remaining within the safe precincts of convention. It takes a kind of bravery, animated by intensely individual sensibility. It is of these many different visions, like the countless facets of a single diamond, that the brilliance of contemporary design is made.