Over the Influence is pleased to present CUBA working title, the Los Angeles debut exhibition of the renowned London-based architect, artist, and designer Ron Arad.
Arad garnered early attention in 1981 with his now iconic 'Rover Chair', which fused two readymades; a salvaged leather bucket seat of the eponymous British car and cast iron Kee-Klamps that were originally designed in 1932 for milking parlors. Combining a piece of design and a readymade through Conceptual Art work, with a spontaneous post-punk 'Mad Max' influence, the 'Rover Chair' proved an impressive addition amongst the history of chairs.
Several years ago, after decades of transforming unwieldy found materials such as Lucite, bronze, and stainless steel into functional objects, the provocative furniture-maker began experimenting for his show In Reverse (2013) with how the legendary smallest Italian car, the Fiat 500, distorts under compression. Arad flattened six Cinquecenti, transforming the Italian icon and national symbol, into ‘paintings’, preserving their stories. Romantically titling the series Pressed Flowers, Arad then mounted the colorful, cartoon-like crushed beauties on the gallery's walls.
After years of putting the series on hold, Arad felt inspired by the American cars in Cuba. His original idea was to crush large American cars from Cuba, using them to carry the journey of glorious vintage through decay and rehabilitation into a different scale, a different history. However, repatriation of the vintage cars proved difficult as they are considered national treasures and protected by the state. Instead of using cars from Cuba, Arad listened to some advice from celebrated Cuban artist, Esterio Segura to “just get the feeling of Havana cars – it doesn’t matter if the cars come from Europe.” He decided to adapt his idea to ‘Cuban’ cars found in Europe and work with Segura on a collaboration: a pressed a car made by Segura specifically for this exhibition. In the end, Arad’s exhibition meant to be titled just Cuba has now become Cuba working title -- a project conceived from an impossible idea that, in the end, while maintaining the essence of the original idea is no longer the project it had been planned to be.
Cuba working title continues Arad's ongoing dialogue between the handmade and the digital processes in his practice, unapologetically converting utilitarian three-dimensional objects into flattened ones. A sort of factory in reverse, each of the retro vehicles was placed sideways in a 500-ton shipyard press in the Netherlands and then pressed like flowers, resulting in 12-centimeter-thick metal sculptures (or rather paintings) which immortalize each perfected detail of the iconic automobiles. Objects made for motion are frozen in time and space; removed from the road, they now hang on a wall, three dimensions reduced to a relief of two.
Unlike the crushed car sculptures by César Baldaccini and John Chamberlain in the 1960s, Arad's pressed cars maintain the integrity of the model's original design--an act of preservation by reduction. The cars find new life as pieces of art. 'I'm not destroying the vehicles -- I'm immortalizing them,' says Arad.
The exhibition also includes some of Arad’s signature designs: D-Sofa, a mirror-polished stainless steel and copper sofa, Restless, a, false-perspective, gravity-defying bronze bookcase, and a concave reflective stainless steel and bronze Ping-Pong table.
Ron Arad (b. in 1951 in Tel Aviv has lived and worked in London since 1973). His works have been featured in numerous solo exhibitions, at galleries and institutions including retrospectives at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, MoMA in New York, Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Barbican in London. In Reverse was an anti-retrospective in the Arad-designed Holon Museum of Design, and later travelled to the Pinacoteca Agnelli in Turin, a museum on the roof of the building where the Fiats were originally made 60 years before.
In 2017 Arad won the competition to design the UK Holocaust Memorial in collaboration with David Adjaye Associates. In addition he has designed a number of Public Art pieces, most recently the Vortext in Seoul, Korea, the Kesher Sculpture at Tel Aviv University, and this summer Safe Hands is going to be installed in the centre of Toronto. Arad will be exhibiting in the Havana Biennale in June 2019.
Arad's work is represented in museum collections including Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA, Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK.