Exhibition Review: Ron Arad’s Well-Disciplined Opus


Installation view of Ron Arad: No Discipline.

Jason Mandella

Despite its title, “Ron Arad: No Discipline,” the first retrospective of artist Ron Arad’s work in the U.S., at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), demonstrates that he has plenty of discipline to assemble a dizzying body of work over the last 25 years. An Israeli-born industrial designer who trained and worked as an architect before going solo, Arad has forged his own path. He gained notoriety in the early 1980s when fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier purchased Arad’s first foray into furniture design, the Rover Chair, built from discarded Rover V8 2L car seats attached to tubular frames.

Though it was designed by Arad to house the exhibition, “Cage sans Frontières (Cage without Frontiers)” steals the show. The 16-foot-tall structure, made of a Cor-Ten steel square grid lined with mirror-like stainless steel, swoops around the gallery in a figure eight that doesn’t quite touch in the middle. Furniture and architectural models are displayed in the squares — a virtual candy store for designers. However, the candy is just out of reach. Since the “Cage” takes up most of the gallery, one is not able to back up enough to take in the pieces exhibited in the higher squares. As a consolation, small video screens showcase the fabrication of certain pieces, animate architectural models, and document the assembly of the exhibition itself.

All said, “No Discipline” is worth the trek to MoMA despite the tourist dodging it entails. Highlights include the “Concrete Stereo,” a simple hi-fi system — turntable, amplifier, and speakers — cast in concrete but partially eroded to expose its innards. Slipping under the middle of “Cage,” viewers discover variations of the cartoonish “Big Easy Chair” made from different materials in a variety of colors. “Even the Odd Balls?” is the latest reincarnation of the series. The armchair duo is made from stainless steel, one sporting bubbly barnacles and the other a Swiss cheese inverse.

Above this pair hangs the literal centerpiece of the exhibit, the dramatic “Lolita” chandelier, commissioned by Swarovski Crystal. Composed of 2,100 crystals and 1,050 white LEDs, the fixture displays SMS text messages sent to the phone number 917-774-6264. The messages wind down its ribbon-like form, making it appear to rotate.

“Ron Arad: No Discipline” is on view at MoMA through 10.19.09.