The exhibition will present the newest body of work by Ron Arad, which pays tribute to Marcel Duchamp, the 20th century pioneer of conceptual art. Inspired by Duchamp’s Porte Bouteilles (Bottle Rack) or Herisson (Hedgehog), Flat Mates will showcase Arad’s poetic reinterpretations and reconceptions of the readymade. The exhibition runs from 11 January – 28 February 2018 at Over The Influence.
In 1914, Marcel Duchamp, a pioneer of Surrealism and Dadaism, bought, titled, and signed a bottle rack made from galvanized iron at the department store Bazar de l’hotel de Ville (BHV) in Paris. This work, titled Porte Bouteilles (Bottle Rack) or Herisson (Hedgehog), would be considered the first readymade artwork. The original was unceremoniously tossed out by the artist’s sister, but was later replaced by the artist in 1921 and additional “editions” of the readymade were purchased and signed by the artist in 1964. The first definition of the readymade published in Dictionnaire abrégé du Surrealism by André Breton and Paul Eduard states the concept as "an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.”
Ron Arad, a conceptual designer, architect, and artist, began his career applying the surrealist concept of the readymade to industrial design. In 1981, Arad’s chance discovery of a Rover in a junkyard led to the first edition of his Rover Chair fabricated by combining the seat from the Rover with elements of the Kee-Klamp scaffolding system. The Rover Chair, though fabricated by utilizing ordinary industrial objects selected by the artist, was presented as a design object with little alteration from its previous form. Throughout the 1980s he continued to make the Rover Chair one at a time as he found discarded seats, comfortably allowing the work to fall into categorization as a readymade artwork.
Since then, Ron Arad’s practice has evolved into more of a dialogue with the Duchampian method of appropriating found objects. In 2013, for his solo exhibition In Reverse at the Design Museum Holon in Israel, Arad squashed six Fiat 500’s using a shipyard press in the Netherlands and romantically titled the series Pressed Flowers. The works straddle between the readymades of Duchamp and the formal sculptures of John Chamberlain which used car bodies as raw material. They also nod to Arad’s previous works such as Rover Chair and Aerial Light, both made from salvaged car parts, and to the idea of compression used in his Sticks and Stones crushing machine installed at Centre Georges Pompidou in the 1987 as part of the exhibition Nouvelle Tendences.
These same poetic gestures in his previous endeavors are apparent in Arad’s newest exhibition Flat Mates at Over The Influence. In his choice of modification and display of the very same bottle rack claimed by Duchamp, Arad subverts the concept of the readymade itself. These works, titled Flat Mate, come from the same source as Duchamp’s readymade, yet they are put through the additional modification used for the Fiat 500’s — the crushing pressure of a shipyard press. This process changes the original intention of the object so much that it is removed completely from the point of utility, but it immortalizes its original form from a new perspective. While Duchamp removed the utility of an object by placing it in a fine art context, Arad instead takes objects considered to be irrelevant and breathes new life back into them.