As a first retrospective show of Hayon’s works, this exhibition is also about posterity, especially since upon entering the museum, walls of artistic objects undergo a process of consecration that embeds the artist and his or her works into art history.
Celebrating its fifth year of existence, the Design Museum Holon seeks to perform a similar function in relation to works of design put on spectacular display in the lower level hall – and organized in subject groups that represent the range between art and design – to those of Hayon’s works in the upper showroom.
At the same time, the playfulness with which Hayon blends surrealist forms, diverse materials and cultural references, such as human-sized porcelain-made chess pieces that make visitors enter into the shoes of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in the Wonderland, showcases the creative power of contemporary design.
This exhibition also uncannily plumbs the continuity between the creative, production and exhibition practices of design and those of art so that Hayon’s exhibition asserts the legacy of modernism as not just an artistic movement, but a broad aesthetic phenomenon that encompasses a wide variety of material forms.
Only from this perspective, abstract and figurative prints, ironically critical sculptures and aesthetically appealing armchairs and tea sets can be included into the same oeuvre of Jaime Hayon as a post-modern producer of objects that both escape facile classifications and bring them self-consciously to bear on their viewing experience. Thus, ceramic, oddly shaped, partly gilded cacti jumbled together with baroque, garden-like references of the country bordering on the Mediterranean Sea evoke a cool, detached, sleek aesthetic of digitally modeled shapes as a series of works that drew international attention in 2003.
A selection from numerous sketches not only traces cultural, reflexive and technical density behind these design objects, but also uncovers the logic of design making, as signature shapes or forms are variously repeated in different materials. By the same token, the involvement of Hayon with major international and Spanish design houses, such as Baccarat and Lladró, brings to the fore the frequently overlooked pre-modern status of artworks as objects of luxury, such as porcelain figurines or colored glass shapes, which he cites in his disorienting but technically accomplished objects devoid of practical functions.
The tension between interior decoration, such as vases alluding to traditional designs and patterns, and cultural critique is also explored in his photographs, wall masks and sculptural objects that reference not only American popular culture but also Japanese Noh theatre.
In this, his ‘Green Chicken’ sculpture, sleekly referencing a swing horse toy, shows Hayon’s postmodernist exploration of the aesthetic possibilities of design that also includes a modernist mourning for the disappearance of the traditional world of everyday life that modernity has displaced. Alternatively, this exhibition also shows that modernism as the death of tradition is a discourse relevant not only to the works of art but also to those of design.