The New Decor

By Coles, Alex | Art Monthly, September 2010 | Go to article overview

The New Decor


Coles, Alex, Art Monthly


The New Decor

Hayward Gallery London 19 June to 15 September

Coming after more than a decade of exhibitions devoted to various aspects of the decorative, 'The New Decor', curated by Hayward's director Ralph Rugoff, hardly announces a new theme for contemporary practice. But instead of being content to accept art's relationship to decor as being transgressive in its own right like its precedents--including 'What If: Art on the Verge of Architecture and Design', 2000; 'Against Design', 2000; 'Art=Design', 2004; and 'Interior/Exterior: Living in Art', 2009--'The New Decor' attempts to push the trajectory of the debate in a different direction: towards the narrative scenarios embedded in the very kernel of decor. In Rugoff's reading, these narrative scenarios are legion but each comes packed with a psychological intensity. 'The New Decor' plays through some of the same themes Rugoff has developed in previous exhibitions, especially the ambitious 'Psycho Buildings' mounted by the Hayward in 2008. In this sense, the current exhibition is perhaps best viewed as part of a continuing process of curatorial enquiry triggered by Rugoff. In the catalogue essay for the present exhibition, Rugoff baldly lays out his agenda for the exhibition in these terms: 'Rewiring the behavioural cues embedded in decor and unsettling its social and psychological narratives, many of these sculptures [in the exhibition] convey a breached sense of decorum. The standard etiquette of interior design, and the idealised image of social behaviour that it communicates, is conspicuous by its absence.'

While the underlying theme of 'The New Decor' is literalised in many of the choices Rugoff has made--especially with the way Sarah Lucas's Fuck Destiny, 2000, and Los Carpinteros's Cama, 2007, anthropomorphise furniture--some of the works selected manage to suggest a more complex sense of interplay between decor and latent narrative. For instance, Thea Djordjadze's Deaf and Dumb Universe, 2008, pits together two pieces of prosaic foam board and four spindly metal legs: there is no question of the object being functional and yet still it resonates in the present context. This is partly because so much of the other work is teeming with narrative, while Djordjadze's piece just sits there rebuffing any attempts at reading it within the frame of reference provided. …

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