A current exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt explores the convergence of minimalist and post-minimalist art and functionality. Entitled Design ? Art ('Design is not Art'), the show brings together a diverse group of 20 artists, and focuses particularly on the work of Donald Judd, Scott Burton, and Richard Tuttle. All of the creations included in the exhibit are not just works of art, but also functioning objects, such as tables, lighting, and chairs. And while their creators are well known, many of these pieces have never been exhibited in a museum setting until now. Taking advantage of the Cooper's location in the former Andrew Carnegie mansion on Manhattan's East Side, the exhibit seeks to create a dialogue between the pieces, while displaying them in a setting that highlights their domestic uses as well as their artistic qualities.
The objects shown at Design ? Art that can be grouped under the rubric of lighting share little more than the idea of illumination. There are a few old favorites, like Isamu Noguchi's paper and bamboo lamps, whose iconic status has been dulled by too many imitations, or Robert Rauschenberg's Tire Lamp, which still has the ability to draw a smile with its knowing wink to the Dadaists. But most of the works will be unknown to a casual art observer, which is exactly what the Cooper wanted. As curator Barbara J. Bloemink explains, 'I don't think lighting has even begun to be fully explored as a functional art form. During the late sixties through the seventies, it was seen as a significant art form used by many artists, and I believe it is now, again, being considered more carefully and significantly as design itself is in the ascendent in our culture.'
Head over to the Cooper-Hewitt and decide for yourself. The show runs through February 27, 2005. Visit www.cooperhewitt.org, and for extended commentary from curator Bloemink, go to www.archlighting.com/architecturallighting/al/industry/index.jsp