For Fun and Games: MCASB Gets Playful with Design Exhibition

Posted on May 18 by SEASONS Magazine

L-R: nendo, Manga Chair (22), 2015, Stainless steel, 32 x 17.25 x 18.25 in. (HWD), Courtesy the Artist and Friedman Benda; Aaron Young, Tire Swing, 2009, Gold plated chain, Used tire, Tire 30 in. diameter, Chain 72 in. length, Courtesy the Artist and Nathalie Karg/Cumulus Studios.

(Left) Nendo, Manga Chair (22), 2015, Stainless steel, 32 x 17.25 x 18.25 in. (Right) Aaron Young, Tire Swing, 2009, Gold-plated chain, Used tire, Tire 30 in. diameter, Chain 72 in. length. Images courtesy of the Artist and Nathalie Karg/Cumulus Studios.

Showcasing art that appropriates childhood motifs, employs satire, and generates form through chance is Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara‘s (MCASB) Free Play exhibit. Chairs with illogically angled legs and old tires hung with a gold-plated chain are just a few of the ludic art forms which will be on display. Furniture, architecture, toys and objects from an international collection of designers, architects and artists are curated by acclaimed design expert Alexandra Cunningham Cameron.

The Free Play exhibit focuses on play as an influential factor in design and how, coupled with originality, art can upend traditional notions of form. Each artist presents distinct views of the world through their pieces, and the result are crafts that become wonderfully illogical, whimsical and poignant.

“Free Play is a collection of objects and architecture which stands apart from the contemporary world’s increasing movement toward efficiency and automation. These works share daydreams, jokes and stories. They pursue pleasure,” says Cunningham Cameron. “We study material culture to better understand the trajectory of civilizations. Free Play suggests how looking at the products of play rather than necessity reveals more about how we got here and where we’re going.”

Cunningham Cameron is intimately familiar with the works presented in Free Play. Her time as creative director for Design Miami ensured network development with numerous artists, many of whom are included in Free Play. The exhibition design is a labyrinth of personal moments and stories. The impressive lineup of creators in the exhibition include Maarten Baas (Design Miami’s 2009 Designer of the Year), Nendo (Designer of the Year by Wallpaper Magazine), Snarkitecture (globally touring collective since 2015) and Katie Stout (2015 winner of HGTV’s Ellen’s Design Challenge, Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list).

Free Play questions what compromises art in today’s day and age and is on view from May 21 through August 20. There will be an opening reception on May 20 from 6–8 p.m. MCASB is located at 653 Paseo Nuevo, and is closed on Mondays.

—Toby Qualls

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