If Ron Arad’s name isn’t familiar, then chances are his work is, especially if you’ve ever been in stores such as Moroso or Moss in Soho. Arad specializes in seating, designing the familiar Ripple chair, shaped like an infinity sign, and the stacking Tom Vac, a sort of ribbed oval half cocoon. Arad can clearly design simple, elegant pieces with wide appeal and function. But for every VW, he has designed a Ferrari. In No Discipline, MOMA shows 140 examples of Arad’s work, including some of these Ferrari-type chaises.
The beauty (or curse) of being an industrial designer is that you can create the exhibition environment, in addition to filling it up. The main structure is called Cage sans Frontières, a freestanding unit of cubbies whose walls undulate, ribbon-like. Arad favors organic, flowing lines akin to a skate’s wing, and juxtaposes these soft contours with his materials’ strengths. Although it’s impressive by itself, it makes the exhibition feel like a bit like shopping.
Some pieces seem to make so much common sense that you wonder why they hadn’t been done before Arad came along, like the Rover Chair—a leather seat from car, mounted on a frame, and its metallic counterpart, Moreover. He balances a large and small oval in several chaise designs such as Oh-Void, cast in glossy acrylic, or polished and lacquered aluminum.
Arad’s well-known shelving design, Bookworm, is shown in several versions. It resembles the cross-section of a nautilus unwound slightly, forming a ribbon with periodic separators. He has also created lighting, such as the elegant, crystal spiral that is Lolita, and the fascinating IPCO (Inverted Pinhole Camera Obscura), a globe whose pierced skin emits patterns on the surroundings.
Also on view are architectural designs for several projects around the world, including the UK, Israel, and Austria. And while he’s had great success with his functional designs, he is somewhat of a conceptual trickster. The Paved with Good Intentions series features a highly polished steel table that morphs up the wall into what seems to be either a window or mirror. And Box in Four Movements is an elegant series of hinged boxes that transforms into various shapes. The sixth floor foyer features his brilliant modular couch of multi-colored vertical modules, making his talent known even while you’re resting your dogs.
Installation view of Ron Arad: No Discipline at MOMA. Photo: Jason Mandella.