By Ann Binlot, March 10, 2015
Ron Arad may be known for the products he's designed in the past five decades, like the sleek Tom Vac chair he designed for Vitra in 1999 or the winding Bookworm shelf he created for Kartell in 1994, but in recent years the industrial designer has been exploring his artistic side.
After making its debut at the Design Museum Holon, Arad's art exhibition "In Reverse" recently opened at Paul Kasmin Gallery's 27th Street location. On view through March 14, the exhibition features six of Arad's "Pressed Flower" sculptures -- a Fiat 500, a car that is illegal in the United States, pressed flat with a giant press. Arad decided to focus on the Fiat 500 because of his history with the vehicle. The Fiat Topolino 500c Giardiniera was his family's first car, and his father almost died in it when he was young. Arad still even owns one today.
"I have a personal history with the 500, and also this car is a very special car in the history of the car industry because I think it's the smallest car that has the necessary conditions that qualify it to be a car," said Arad. "You make it smaller, it's not a car, you make it bigger, it's not the smallest car. It's an Italian icon."
Just don't assume that Arad simply flattened the cars. "I decided to take it from being a three-dimensional object to a two-dimensional object, and I decide to immortalize it because that way it will stay forever," said the designer-cum-artist.
Arad procured the cars from a family in London. "They looked after my Fiat, and I told them what I want to do, and in the beginning they were very sad, but I explained to them I'm immortalizing it, they helped me with the project, and they prepared them for me, and took the engines out," he said.
Along with the six pressed Fiat 500s, the exhibition also features "Blame the Tools," a life-sized steel and bronze sculpture that's a digitally gridded 3D model of a Fiat.
How does making art differ from industrial design? "The process is not all that different," said Arad. "The circumstances, the atmosphere, how it's used, how it showed, but sometimes the process is very similar. The thought might be different."
--Ann Binlot is contributor to ARTPHAIRE. This New York-based writer and graduate of Columbia University School of Journalism covers the spectrum from foreign affairs and politics, to fashion and art. Binlot has also contributed to several publications including TIME, Marie Claire, Newsweek and more.
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