The Design Culture Calendar: January

The Design Culture Calendar: January

Tatsuo Mayajima’s “Connect with Everything” installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

Few contemporary artists grapple with what it means to be human as profoundly as Japanese-born Tatsuo Miyajima, whose signature works are high-tech, immersive light installations that border on the mystical. “Tatsuo Miyajima―Connect with Everything,” the artist’s first solo show in the Southern Hemisphere, is on view at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and is as comprehensive a retrospective as the works deserve. Foremost among them are the installations Mega Death and Arrow of Time, which take on the weight of mortality and the irreversibility of life’s trajectory, respectively, and the equal parts mesmerizing and agitating Pile Up Life, light-studded sculptures dedicated to the individual lives lost to mass genocide. All three resonate with the mantras that inform Miyajima’s life and work: Keep Changing, Connect with Everything, and Live Forever. 

Museum of Contemporary Art, 140 George St, The Rocks NSW 2000, Sydney, Australia; Through March 5.  

A Robert Rauschenberg Retrospective at the Tate Modern Switch House, London

Your excuse for a visit across the pond to inaugurate the Switch House – the Tate Modern’s new brick pyramid-tower extension designed by the same Swiss firm, Herzog & de Meuron, that transformed the massive Bankside Power Station into the enormously popular hub of modern and contemporary art – has arrived in the form of the first major retrospective of Robert Rauschenberg since the American artist’s death in 2008.

Organized chronologically and in collaboration with New York’s MoMA, where it heads next spring, the show unfolds as a riveting narrative, journeying through the maverick’s many seminal creative moments, from his striking blue monoprints and his extraordinary Combines—so named for their amalgam of painting and sculpture (two of them are on rare loan from their respective homes: MoMA’s Bed and Moderna Museet’s Monogram)—to the artist’s Pop-inflected transfer drawings and silkscreens, and sculptures he made during his multifaceted tenure as a performance artist. 

Tate Modern, Bankside, London; Through April 2.

Cy Twombly’s Retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, Paris

It’s strangely fitting that the extraordinary Cy Twombly, Rauschenberg’s erstwhile teacher, lover and friend, is being feted simultaneously at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in the first major retrospective since this artist’s death in 2011. Spanning the early 1950s to his last year, the show’s 140 works are framed around three major cycles of the artist’s work: Nine Discourses on Commodus, the 1963 series Twombly undertook shortly after his permanent move to Rome that harnessed the artist’s scribblings, smudges and erasures to tell the story of the barbaric reign and eventual murder of Roman emperor Aurelius Commodus; Fifty Days at Iliam, what the artist referred to as “a painting in ten parts” that depicts the first 50 days of the siege of Troy, inspired by Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Iliad; and 2000’s Coronation of Sesostris, another series of ten whose subject was the Egyptian mythology of the sun’s journey from morning to night. After much rejection and hostility in the States, Twombly was given his first solo show in Paris in 1971, making this elegiac show in the City of Light all the more poignant. 

Centre Pompidou, Place Georges-Pompidou, Paris; Through April 24.

R.H. Quaytman’s “Morning: Chapter 30″ exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

The poetic, hypnotic and singular work of R.H. Quaytman is on display in full splendor at “R.H. Quaytman, Morning: Chapter 30” at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the first major museum survey of the NYC-based artist. Made up of 22 gesso-and-silkscreen paintings, the series “30 Chapters” is, like the 29 “chapters” that preceded it, a site-specific project that in this case takes inspiration from another site-specific work, Michael Heizer’s earthwork Double Negative, an excavation on the eastern side of Mormon Mesa in southern Nevada that resulted in two massive trenches. Quaytman traveled to the site in late 2015 to photograph the barren site with an instant camera; the resulting images were the basis for her latest work. (The artist clearly relishes the absurdity that Heizer’s work belongs to the MOCA collection yet can never be shown within the museums walls—except, perhaps, via this translation.) But “Chapter 30” the exhibition is a comprehensive solo show as well, as it includes not only her most recent series but another 43 paintings from the past ten years, including a complete chapter from 2011. 

Museum of Contemporary Art, 250 South Grand Ave, Los Angeles; Through February 6. 

The Opening of the Sumida Hokusai Museum, Tokyo

Despite the rich history of art in Japan, it is ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”)—woodblock prints from the 18th and 19th centuries depicting everything from kimono-clad courtesans and kabuki actors to animals, plants, and dramatic, often romantic landscapes—that first comes to mind when one thinks of Japanese art, and that has had the most lasting influence on artists of every nationality (including 19th-century masters James Whistler, Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt, among others).

Now there’s a museum devoted entirely to the country’s best-known practitioner, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), whose formal, masterfully composed works have, alongside those of rival Hiroshige (1797-1858), come to define the genre. Designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Kazuyo Sejima, the angular Sumida Hokusai Museum just opened in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward, where the legendary master lived and produced the bulk of his work in the mid 19th century. Don’t miss Great Wave off Kanazawa from his seminal “36 Views of Mt. Fuji” series. 

Sumida Hokusai Museum, 2-7-2 Kamezawa, Sumida-ku, Tokyo;

Louise Bourgeois’s “Structures of Existence: The Cells” at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen

Be sure to buy a ticket to Copenhagen, not the Southern U.S. state, to see “Louise Bourgeois. Structures of Existence: The Cells” at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. The show in Denmark’s most visited museum, located about 20 miles north of Copenhagen on the Øresund Sound, showcases 25 of the French-American artist’s 62 Cells, the self-contained, microcosmic tableaux that she began shortly before turning 80 that are among her most visceral works. (She embarked on their creation in 1980 in a spacious new Brooklyn studio that allowed her to create much larger works than she ever could in her Chelsea home.)

Her first six Cells, which are demarcated by walls with doors that lead into interior spaces, have been reunited for the first time since they were shown in 1991 at the Carnegie International exhibition in Pittsburgh. Another highlight is her monumental spider Cell, which, rather than signifying menace, symbolizes the kindness and care of her nurturing mother, who was a weaver and restorer of ancient tapestries.

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Gl Strandvej 13, 3050 Humlebæk, Denmark; Through February 26. 

from 99U99U

Designers, on Design: Argo Design Creative Director Laura Seargeant Richardson

Designers, on Design: Argo Design Creative Director Laura Seargeant Richardson

My grandfather was a man of few words, but many smiles. Like a Norman Rockwell painting, he wore the title “grandfather” well. He would take me to the pool in the summer and was content to just sit in a rickety chair in the shade listening to the sounds of children laugh, an old jukebox that played Foreigner, and the smack of tennis balls hitting rackets. He would sit for hours simply watching. Sometimes, I would look up from my play and he would wave at me. He seemed content and so was I.

When I think back on my time with him as a child, my fondest memories are visiting his home in Lexington, Virginia.  He would let me climb up to the old attic covered in dust and I would spend hours by myself looking at old family heirlooms and memories. Everything about that house, from its smell to the artifacts within in it, held great mystery for me. Nothing was off limits, including the basement, where the memories I have of him would form.

The stairs down were narrow, curved and dark. When I got to the bottom, his treasures stood like sentries at the palace gates. Everything was coated in a fine layer of dust and nothing ever moved. There was a broken radio in one corner, musty books in a case, and an old clock with a clear cloche cover that didn’t work. Tucked in the back of a vintage armoire was an 1898 version of Samuel Coleridge’s The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. The story and its illustrations kept me entertained when I got bored with the adults upstairs. It was his world and he held it open for me. I felt like Alice in his Wonderland, transported through time.



The author and her grandfather playing at the park.

As I’ve grown up, I recall stories of he and my mother going to the creek to catch crawfish when she was little and how on their Sunday family drives he was always the first to spot a hawk. My grandfather was very observant, but I think he really learned to see the world on the one-hour walk he took every day in solitude.

Like clockwork, in rain, sleet, or snow my grandfather would just walk. I often wondered what he thought – was he anxious about money, the current president’s decision making, or the health of his oldest daughter? While those issues might have been on his mind, I also believe it was more profound and simple than that. You see, my grandfather learned to live in those moments. He took the time to observe, internalize and reflect on the world and his place in it. He found that it’s not how much time we have, but what we do in each hour that counts.

Although from my child’s perspective, my grandfather’s contentment in stillness seemed curious, I now recognize the value in his habit and have found ways to follow his example in my work as a designer. I start with observation as the profound opportunity to be still enough to notice the world for which I design. While I believe we cannot curate every reaction to the experiences we create, we must act as if we can. We must care enough about the world to imagine a better outcome than one not designed at all.

When my grandfather died, I volunteered to organize his belongings and help determine what the family wanted to keep or give away. I lived in Texas by then and flew back to his home in Virginia one last time. I walked in and smelled the same scent of my childhood memories. Now, it wasn’t just the attic and basement laid bare to me. It was every drawer and every closet, the garage and the cellar. It was an archeological dig, one more meaningful and personal than dinosaur bones could ever be.



Seargeant Richardson is the creative director at argo design in Austin, Texas.

As I started to work through the layers of clothing, old leather shoes and photographs, I found the world of my grandfather’s daily walks carefully preserved in dozens of paper balls, all dated by hand with rubber bands to hold them together. I discovered more than thirty paper balls covered in his handwriting with objects inside. Often, the “treasures” were nails, pennies, a hair clip, or a small plastic toy – the ephemera of everyday life. I unwrapped a few, but kept many in their original form as my memories of him.

The year my daughter turned eight, I told her the story and let her open the last one. As the universe sometimes aligns just right, I think he had a hand in that moment. She carefully unraveled the paper and the small treasure nestled in the musty folds was a dainty golden sand dollar on a thin chain. And then I wondered if he had planned it all along. If my discovery years before was actually by his design.  

His lasting gift to me wasn’t just beautiful memories, but a profound reminder for my profession and my life’s work. Sometimes the greatest teachers aren’t other people, but the things they leave behind. It is our role as designers to do the same.

from 99U99U