Design and Architecture (2017) is a set of four silkscreen pairs by Michael Craig-Martin which juxtapose a piece of classic modern furniture with a well-known building created by the same designer/architect: Frank Lloyd Wright, Gerrit Rietveld, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. The four designed objects (a desk, a buffet and two chaise lounges) appear amplified by the architecturally-designed buildings. Consistent with other recent works by Craig-Martin, the Design and Architecture series graphically reveals how objects are inherently linked to a point in time, and in a similar way to a hit song perhaps, can even come to represent and define an era.
Commenting on design, Craig-Martin has said:
“I’m not a designer, and I don’t make any of these things. I don’t design laptops and I don’t design chairs. […] I’m actually just an observer. The thing that I think is interesting about what I do is that I actually don’t invent anything. I just use what’s in front of me. I increasingly think that invention is the realm of design, and observation is the realm of art”.
Michael Craig-Martin: Transience (London: Serpentine / Koenig Books, 2016) p.57
Michael Craig-Martin (b. 1941) is regularly referred to as the godfather of ‘Brit Art’ due to his influence on a younger generation of artists whom he taught at Goldsmiths in London between 1974 and 2000, including Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas, Gary Hume and Julian Opie. He first gained recognition for his seminal conceptual work An Oak Tree (1979), in which he asked the viewer to accept that he had transformed a simple glass of water on a glass shelf into a mighty oak tree without physically changing the object itself. This act of ‘transubstantiation’ (or making a change that you can’t actually see) not only pointed to the power of an artistic gesture, it also set the scene for Craig-Martin’s ongoing post-Duchampian investigation into ‘readymades’ and how mass- produced and designed objects are shaped by and shape the world we live in.
In recent years, Craig-Martin has become widely known for his vibrantly coloured paintings, silkscreen prints and outline sculptures of everyday objects – such as mobile phones, laptops, lightbulbs, briefcases, credit cards, takeaway coffee cups and USB memory sticks – depicted in a distinctive graphic shorthand which resembles that found in instruction manuals.
Michael Craig-Martin has had numerous solo and retrospective exhibitions at galleries around the world including Gagosian, London (2019), the Serpentine Gallery, London (2015/6), Gagosian, Hong Kong (2014), the National Art Centre, Tokyo (2007) and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2006). In 2015 he was appointed chief co-ordinator for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and in 2016 he was knighted for his services to the arts.