Functional Art

Ron Arad's Rolling Volume

By the close of the 1980s, Ron Arad had cemented a reputation as an exceptional designer well-known for his post-industrial works based on appropriation and the ready-made, such as the Rover chair and Concrete Stereo. But his Volume series, begun in 1989, featuring a refined and previously unseen strength of sculptural expression, symbolizes an important shift into the expression of sculptural form, laying the groundwork for his landmark accomplishments of the next twenty years.

Sketch by Ron Arad.

Rolling Volume, like many of Arad’s earliest Volume works, incorporates traditional industrial materials and retains his characteristic brutalist approach to construction. It is his formal treatment however, in this case deliberately elegant and graceful, which re-contextualizes these works.  The designer’s eye, critical of the designed ‘object’, is apparent in these, but his intentions to focus on form are clear. Tipping his hand in the title, Arad places primary emphasis on the chair’s spatial properties. The simplified welded steel construction serves only to refocus our attention on the work’s morphology. Internally weighted, the chair and its integral seat are angled upward  visually creating the energy of an object in motion, while also providing a challenge to the potential sitter thereby further distancing the user from the chairs functionality. Once the form is established and volume is assigned, the work is finished. There is no discussion or consideration of surface, of decoration. Here, Arad reassigns his furniture form as sculpture, as a work of art. 

According to Oscar Wilde, the element of function disqualifies something from being art. But actually an art form’s function might be to entertain or delight. 

—Ron Arad

Ron Arad b. 1951

Ron Arad was born in Tel Aviv in 1951 and attended the Bezaele Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem from 1971-73. He moved to London to attend the Architectural Association, encountering a creative environment that emphasized ideas over technique. Inspired by Gaetano Pesce, Arad became interested in using industrial materials in domestic settings. He co-founded his London design studio and workshop, One-Off with Caroline Thorman in 1981. That same year, Arad created his seminal Rover chairs made with scavenged materials. Throughout the 80s, Arad explored the possibilities of sheet steel, opting to shape and alter it by hand, imparting a distinctive rough finish that would become a signature of his work. From 1997-2009, Arad was the head of the Design Product Department at the Royal College of Art in London. In 2008, Ron Arad Architects was established; two years later, the Design Museum in Holon, Israel was completed and received much international acclaim. Along with his studio work, Arad has produced a number of designs for companies such as Vitra, Alessi and Cassina to name a few. He also began to experiment with jewelry making in 2003, combining 3-D printing with traditional and non-traditional materials to create dynamic wearable forms.

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