Decoration spread from Memphis monograph (doctored)

Justin Beal, 2007, photographic print, 50 × 70  cm
As an industrial design student I was always irritated by the Memphis Group. They were the awkward ugly chapter in the history of industrial design at the onset of postmodernism; the moment when, to someone whose education followed a specific modernist history, everything was overcome with bad taste and poor judgment. It was a problem: something which clearly developed out of a history of modernist and functionalist design suddenly turned that history on its head. In Memphis’s work, the ethics of functionalism are completely denied — materials are used “dishonestly,” structure is concealed, and function follows form. Humor and poor taste win out over the gravitas commonly associated with modern design. Now, however, looking at that work from another vantage point — as a sculptor with a certain investment in a history of design — Memphis suddenly seems more like an answer than a problem; an answer to a question which asks how furniture and sculpture might merge.

–“Decoration,” Justin Beal, Dot Dot Dot #14, 2007

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