Conceptual designer Jonathan Muecke is relatively young, but has already amassed an impressive amount of experience: an undergraduate degree in architecture at Iowa, a prestigious internship with Herzog and de Meuron, a graduate degree at Cranbrook, and a solo show with Chicago’s Volume Gallery last year. On the occasion of his second solo exhibition, “Open Objects,” Artsy’s Design Specialist Alex Gilbert spoke to Muecke about his practice and the new show, which features six objects that challenge the user to question their function.
Alex Gilbert: I’ve read that your work “circulates around the periphery of design.” Is this a reference to your duel interest in architecture, and to what extent do you approach things cross-disciplinarily?
Jonathan Muecke: The periphery is the position that I prefer for my practice—it is ideologically free. I do not distinguish architecture from design. I am interested in interior and exterior—the interior of an object and the exterior of space.
AG: This exhibition plays with furniture typologies. Can you please identify the six objects you’ve designed for this show and give a couple examples of how you’ve altered our understanding of their function or purpose?
LWS low wooden shape
PS painted shape
HS horizontal shape
DL decentralized light
Typology is used as a means to reckon the expansive and more expectant terms of the projects.
Across all of the projects there is a deliberate shift, through material, shape, color, scale, away from the object itself.
The result is that the objects are somehow beside themselves.
This quality in the objects makes them universal in the broadest sense.
AG: How important are material studies to you works? Do you prefer to experiment with new materials or use existing ones in unexpected ways?
JM: Materials are important. I have learned that they are no more important than shape or color or scale or idea.
AG: How does your work seek to disrupt the user’s interpretation of the piece (e.g. geometry or depth of field)? Can you offer a couple examples of what might surprise us when we see these pieces in person?
JM: I work toward the limit of the object. Individual limits —geometry and depth of field (to use your examples)—become the same.
An object in this circumstance deflects a direct and conclusive interpretation.
AG: Who are your design heros?
JM: I am interested in my generation: Jonathan Olivares, Leon Ransmeier, others
AG: What design magazines, blogs, or instagram accounts do you follow religiously?
JM: Occasionally someone will send me something and I will look at it.
Portrait by Travis Roozée
“Jonathan Muecke: Open Objects” is on view at Volume Gallery, Chicago, Sep. 6th – Nov. 9th.