The New Transcendence, the last in a series of three pace-setting exhibitions curated by Glenn Adamson for Friedman Benda, will explore the place of the spiritual in contemporary design today. The works on view are infused with profound significance, whether as relics, ritual tools, or representations. The New Transcendence is not an exhibition about religion in the organized, traditional, or dogmatic sense. Rather, it aims to discover how design can serve as a vehicle for personal and societal transcendence.
The exhibition includes work by six designers: Ini Archibong, Andrea Branzi, Stephen Burks, Najla El Zein, Courtney Leonard, and Samuel Ross. Each of the participants has their own perspective, yet one thing unites them: the impetus to provide an objective, material anchor for the subjective and ultimately private nature of spiritual belief. The immaterial means something different, today, in our digital age – perhaps making physical artifacts more crucial as anchors for transcendent experience.
In tribute to Andrea Branzi’s longstanding and deep thinking on this topic, three works from his Roots series are included, which he wrote “similar to thought or philosophy. They don’t have a reason why they’re there. They are brought there by streams, the wind.” This same quality pervades the work selected for A New Transcendence; we acknowledge that they originate not only from the designer’s process, but as a result of some larger force, perhaps ancestral, perhaps cosmic.
The project marks the culmination of a trilogy that began with A New Realism (2021), which looked at pragmatism and craft-based, materially-intensive process, and continued with The New Figuration (2022), an examination of the nearly unprecedented exploration of the human image in design today. As with the previous exhibitions in the series, the goal of The New Transcendence is not so much to champion individual designers as it is to establish a current archetype of practice. We are reflecting on tendencies even as we see them emerge, presenting a mosaic of possibilities which may someday (in hindsight) be more easily recognized as a distinct pattern. Having begun with raw matter, then continued with images of the body, the series now concludes with a glance towards something higher – perhaps even universal.
About Glenn Adamson
Glenn Adamson is a curator, writer and historian based in New York and London. He has previously been Director of the Museum of Arts and Design and Head of Research at the V&A. Dr. Adamson’s publications include Thinking Through Craft (2007); The Craft Reader (2010); Postmodernism: Style and Subversion (2011, with Jane Pavitt); The Invention of Craft (2013); Art in the Making (2016, with Julia Bryan-Wilson); Fewer Better Things: The Hidden Wisdom of Objects (2018); Objects: USA 2020; and Craft: An American History (2021). His next book, A Century of Tomorrows, will be published by Bloomsbury in 2024. Dr. Adamson is Artistic Director for Design Doha, a new biennial festival for Qatar (forthcoming in 2024), and editor of Material Intelligence, a quarterly online journal published by the Chipstone Foundation. His current curatorial projects include Worlds Within: The Art of Toshiko Takaezu at the Isamu Noguchi Museum (forthcoming in 2024, and touring thereafter).