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August 29, 2014

Patents: The Zipper

Unzip the Kink with Collage Artist Trey Wright

“My favorite zippered item is a pair of black leather boots—they’re a bit too 70s porno style for day wear, but I love the loud, screeching sound the industrial zippers make,” says Texan visual artist Trey Wright who created today’s pop serenade to the almighty zipper. Whether you’re looking to conceal, reveal, or quite simply, seal, the zipper has been an undeniably practical, and sometimes decorative, part of our everyday for over a century. Patented on August 29, 1893 by American inventor Whitcomb L. Judson, the “clasp locker” was the precursor to the modern zipper, which made its first appearance in 1913, when Swedish engineer Gideon Sundback, improved upon the original design. Then in 1934, Japan’s Tadao Yoshida launched YKK to become a billionaire fastening-magnate, all from the dependable zip. “I wanted to capture the ease of a zipper,” says Wright, who also discovered its musical charms while on set. “The sound of the zipper and the act of zipping something can be quite entertaining, sexy and funny.”

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Spotlight

Ron Arad: Metal Maestro

The Forward-Thinking Designer Returns to the Israeli Museum He Built

Digitally deconstructed renderings of imploding Fiat 500s form the base of this short film, showing alongside lustrous steel chair frames, high-tech 3D printing and raw copper molds at Ron Arad’s latest show, In Reverse, hosted by the Design Museum Holon, Israel. Arad designed the museum in 2010 with the aim of turning the city into a design hub for the Middle East and triggering worldwide interest in the creative output of the area. One of the trailblazers of modern design, Arad has been working with metal for over three decades to create a comprehensive series of works that transcend art, architecture, design and installation. He first rose to fame in the 1980s and has since headed the Design Products Department at London’s prestigious Royal College of Art, as well as working with such big-name brands as Alessi, Vitra, Kenzo and Yohji Yamamoto. In Reverse takes Arad’s work a step further into the realm of digital, as he explores how the shape and form of the Italian automobile reacts under different strains. “I was in the middle of squashing a huge sculpture, and had this Fiat 500 gathering rust outside my studio.” explains the designer. “One day I said to myself ‘Let me squash that, too!’” I practiced with model cars, then graduated to real-size ones. It’s not a complex idea, but I talked about the car with the museums who got very excited by it, so there we are!”

How does it feel to be coming home, as it were?
Ron Arad: It took me until now to agree to do a show at the museum, mainly because I think of it as my piece, so I don’t want to use it for my own work as well! This show was so successful though—I’ve been at the Pompidou, MoMA, the Barbican, and so I was excited to end the journey here. I know the museum so well, so it made it easier to plan. And now it’s pretty thrilling to see people enjoying the show and the building

What interests you about working with metal?
RA: When I first started work, metal was a forgiving material: I could work with it without being a craftsman. I can cut it, weld it, sharpen it, polish it and make it an extension of sketching. There’s no blueprint. 

Is this your first venture into digital simulation?
RA: When I first bashed metal, I had people around me who were obviously much better then me—they were better at polishing or sculpting. But with digital technology, anything is possible and I can be as good at creating something as I like. I still draw everything in some way, but the digital in this case enhances it. 

And the squashing of cars?
RA: It’s funny, because out of the six cars, not one is the favorite: everyone chooses a different one so it’s a hung parliament, as it were. It’s interesting to see something so full of shape and recognizable instantly take on a new form.

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Spotlight

In Residence: Ruth and Richard Rogers

The Master Architect and His Restaurateur Wife Welcome Us into Their Converted Georgian London Townhouse

Ruth Rogers jokes that her husband, whose accomplishments include Centre Pompidou, Lloyds of London and The Millennium Dome, took a house and turned it into a barn. Yet extraordinarily, the exterior of the building is an archetypal Georgian terrace; a resplendent facade in London brick with uniform windows and smart stucco. From the street there is no hint of the vertiginous staircase that zigzags through the air of the dramatic living space inside. “A room is the beginning of a city,” says Rogers and there are plenty of nods towards his architectural preoccupations. An industrial palette of natural light and acid-bright color is everywhere. Even the window-box geraniums are a signature pink. A column of Mao Zedong portraits courtesy of Andy Warhol, works by Cy Twombly and a fine collection of Philip Gustons are displayed alongside Mexican craft art and clusters of elegant ceramic vessels made by Richard’s mother. That the Rogers refer to the living space as a “piazza” is significant; the communal spirit of Italy, and in particular Florence where Richard was born, is an enduring influence on them both.

Richard Rogers RA: Inside Out at London’s Royal Academy of Arts runs through October 13.

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