Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Art Nouveau Movement

Today, we are overwhelmed with cheap mass-produced goods sold at greater prices where the end goal is to make a profit. Yes, modern design must be profitable in order to sustain itself, and most definitely good design sells, but I strongly believe we need to recognize good design from imitations.

Nothing is new-everything is a recreation and the only way to recognize where it came from is to study the past. The amount of references to the art world in the media is incredible, especially once you begin studying your history!

PLuSH is here to take you back in time to the turn of the 20th century and the emergence of Art Nouveau art such as the above {Aubrey Beardsley - black cape} piece!
Art Nouveau was an intensive attempt to create an international style based on decoration. It sought to fashion an art form appropriate to modern age and encompassed a whole way of life, making art part of everyday life, as well as closing the gap between the fine arts and the applied arts. Art Nouveau would not neglect any object, no matter how utilitarian it was. Some leading artists were Gustav Klimt, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Rene Lalique and Antoni Gaudi, each one with a distinct, personal style.

{Victoirel Rene Lalique radiator cap mascot for a car + Dragonfly women's corsage ornament}

Peaking in popularity around 1890-1905, Art Nouveau was a reaction to academic art of the 19th century. It was characterized by organic motifs (especially floral and plant-inspired ones) and was highly stylized with flowing curvilinear forms. Art Nouveau’s influences were strongest throughout Europe-from Glasgow to Moscow to Spain- but the influence was global. The flat-perspective and strong colours of Japanese woodcuts were particularly influential on many artists with its organic forms, as well as references to the natural world and clear designs that contrasted strongly with the reigning taste.

{Rene Lalique ceiling light + Antoni Guadi tea set from Barcelona Spain}
Art Nouveau could be seen as a response to the Industrial Revolution; however, like in all art movements, each artist had their own viewpoint. Some welcomed the technological advancements and embraced the aesthetic possibilities of new material, such as cast iron. Meanwhile, others were against the cheap quality of mass-produced machine-made goods and aimed to elevate the decorative arts to the level of fine art by applying the highest standards of craftsmanship and design to everyday objects.

{Casa Batllo Barcelona Spain + the roof of Casa Mila Barcelona - Antoni Guardi}

Design not only creates objects but encompasses a whole way of life. It makes the world a more beautiful place and creates a sort of visual language that doesn’t exclude anybody. The problem today is that there is an excess of products and the general public is used to cheap prices and shoddy goods, that they become the norm and we don’t ever stop to think why? It’s funny that a hundred years ago, prior to modern corporations, people were concerned with the same things and it wasn’t even close to the amount of mass-production that dominates retail today!

{Charles Rennie Macintosh-Hill house chair}
I am not denying the fact that technology has many advantages, I just feel that there needs to be more balance. Mass production enables design to become widespread but it also runs the risk of erasing the varied characteristics of cultures. Today we have this sort of mainstream global style that many people don’t even like but alternatives are not as easily found, so mainstream prevails.

There is an entire new world of design just beyond the shopping malls and popular media and PLuSH strives to be at the forefront of it. So please challenge yourselves to be more critical of what you’re buying and seeing. Whether you take a cultural, feminist, or strictly aesthetic approach to design, start questioning why things are the way they are!

Help make PLuSHosity the norm through education, observation and a burning desire to know more. How else will we understand the world around us?!

Andrea G.
PLuSH Street Team

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