Design of the Times

MoCA contemplates the vanishing line between consumer culture and fine art

A concurrent show at MoCA further stimulates speculation on the relationship between art and design. "Minimal Affect: Selected Works From MoCA's Permanent Collection" includes only 16 pieces by 13 artists, but it makes a cogent case for minimalist art as one of the parents of contemporary commercial design -- especially when compared with "DESIGN matters."

First, consider the posted introduction to "Minimal Affect": "During the 1960s Minimalism represented a new kind of abstraction. Minimal art consists of single or repeated geometric forms that have been assembled out of industrial materials. These objects bear no trace of emotion or intuitive decision-making, in stark contrast to the Abstract Expressionist painting and sculpture that preceded it during the 1940s and 1950s. Minimal work does not allude to anything beyond its literal presence, or its existence in the physical world. Materials appear as materials; color, if used at all, is non-referential."

Then examine some of the minimalist works: the untitled 1988 Alan Charlton piece that consists of 14 small square acrylic canvases in a horizontal row, each painted a uniform medium gray; Jim Hodges' View (metallic), which is made up of 18,000 tiny Pantone chips taped together to suggest an extreme closeup of a computer-generated image; Dan Flavin's Puerto Rican Lights (to Jeanie Blake) #2, in which three colored fluorescent light tubes are mounted vertically, side by side, in a corner.

A very artsy Campana Brothers armchair
A very artsy Campana Brothers armchair


On display through November 26, 305-893-6211
Museum of Contemporary Art, 770 NE 125th St., North Miami

Finally, take another look at "DESIGN matters": Minimalism married to function begets much of the sort of contemporary design on display across the way in MoCA's main gallery.

As an art exhibition, "Minimal Affect" is ultimately more satisfying, despite its brevity, than "DESIGN matters." But even more satisfying is the way the smaller show helps pull the larger one into focus. Taken together, they pack quite a punch.

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