One of the most venerable and influential of contemporary industrial artists, Israeli-born, London-based Ron Arad has made a career operating at the interstices of fine art and design. For over thirty years, his ability to draw out sinewy curves and sensual helices from muscular materials like steel, polyethylene, and plastic has given the world instantly recognizable objects, from the Bookworm bookcase to the Well-Tempered Chair. His singular vision extends into the buildings he has also conceived of worldwide, such as the Mediacite Center building in Lieges, Belgium (completed in 2009) and the Design Museum Holon, in Israel (completed in 2010). This year will mark the finalization of Arad’s redesign of the interior of the storied Watergate Hotel, in Washington, D.C.
Though trained primarily as an architect at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, and later London’s Architectural Association, Arad first rose to prominence for his design of an iconic chair. When he mounted a leather seat from an abandoned Rover car on a steel frame in 1981, the Rover Chair was born. The piece earned him instant acclaim and allowed him to leave his job as an apprentice architect and found his own, eponymous studio. It’s telling that Arad has referred to Marcel Duchamp as an influence, as the Rover Chair is frequently likened to a spiritual descendant of Duchamp’s Readymades; that is, objects that the pioneering twentieth century artist repurposed (most famously his Fountain (1917), a porcelain urinal turned on its side) into objects of fine art. Since then, dreaming up radical approaches to the humble piece of furniture — from the Raviolo Chair to the Folly Bench — has been part and parcel of Arad’s work.
The 2RNot Chair is an outstanding example of this estimable lineage. Made entirely of copper, portions of which have been polished and blackened, the chair seems almost to be constructed of two entirely different materials. The seat exhibits the undulating contours that are characteristic of so much of Arad’s work. Buffed to a high shine, they are suggestive of the sun glinting off the waves of a rolling sea. Yet, once again surprising us with his relentless ingenuity, with the 2RNot Chair Arad breaks one of many preconceived ideas about his work. The shimmering curves of the seat are encased in a swarthy, geometric frame, its austere lines and rigid angles a rare feature in his oeuvre. Like an optical illusion, the cube alternately eclipses or reveals the chair’s rippling interior, depending on the viewer’s perspective. All of a sudden, it is not only a chair but also a puzzle, revealing seating options at every turn.