If there is one clear conclusion that I can draw from what presented in the current NYC x Design (New York City Design Week), is that the 1980s are back. 2018 is witnessing a strong revival of the 1980s. The most interesting and surprising exhibition presented in Manhattan is 'German Avant-Garde Design of the 1980s: Pentagon Group with Beate Kuhn,' at Demisch Danant Gallery. The show combines the work of Cologne-based avant-garde group Pentagon with the work of German ceramic artist Beate Kuhn on loan from Jason Jacques Gallery, showcasing the 1980s in its entire legacy and complexity: conceptual, personal, social, emotional, unconventional, embracing symbols, and breaking the boundaries of design practice. Unlike their Italian counterparts who created a visual language (Memphis) and their American contemporaries who were concerned with injecting political and social contents into their design (Art et Industrie), the Germans, we can learn at this groundbreaking exhibition, developed a design vocabulary which was raw, brutal, severe, minimal and remote from any notion of 'beauty.' The five members of Pentagon were not trained as designers, but in the craft that they practiced. The addition of the work by ceramic artist Beate Kuhn proved to be brilliant, as her pieces, most of which inspired by nature, emphasize the character of the design work, illuminating its unusual and somewhat odd appearance in the most compelling way. All images courtesy of Demisch Danant and below is the Café Casino installation at the Documenta, 1987.
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