“Design is inherently figurative. After all, chairs have arms, legs, a back and seat. Yet this potential has remained largely implicit in modern or contemporary design.” — Glenn Adamson
Friedman Benda is pleased to present The New Figuration, curated by Glenn Adamson. Including works by seven contemporary practitioners, the exhibition considers the current propulsion towards figurative representation in design, and more broadly, probes the mode’s sudden pressing relevance – a phenomenon paralleled in contemporaneous painting and sculpture.
The New Figuration is the second in a series of programmatic explorations of key developments in contemporary design curated by Adamson at Friedman Benda. Following the exhibition “A New Realism” (2021), which considered materially-intensive pragmatism as a working strategy, The New Figuration showcases positions whose formal and conceptual concerns are resolved through figural means. Apart from a few forebears, such as Nicola L and Gaetano Pesce, anthropomorphism has been a rare presence in design history, until now.
The exhibition brings together the work of Saelia Aparicio, Carmen D’Apollonio, FEI Yining, Anna Aagaard Jensen, Toomas Toomepuu, Chris Schanck and Barbora Zilinskaite. While each artist in the show has particular reasons for adopting the figurative mode, the works collectively suggest a turn away from the modernist ideal and its characteristically abstract nature, and an embrace of individual subject positions. As Adamson states, “above all, figuration necessarily raises a completely different set of criteria: who an object is meant to represent, as well as what.”
About Glenn Adamson
Glenn Adamson is a curator, writer and historian based in New York. He has previously been Director of the Museum of Arts and Design; Head of Research at the V&A; and Curator at the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee. Adamson’s publications include Thinking Through Craft (2007); The Craft Reader (2010); Postmodernism: Style and Subversion (2011, accompanying the exhibition of that title at the V&A, co-curated with Jane Pavitt); The Invention of Craft (2013); Art in the Making (2016, co-authored with Julia Bryan-Wilson; and Fewer Better Things: The Hidden Wisdom of Objects (2018). His newest book is Craft: An American History, published by Bloomsbury.