Feast for the Eyes: The Joy of Color in Modern Design

Color is the language by which we perceive our world. What would the world be without the joy of violet, the flare of red, the cool of blue, the optimism of yellow, the chic of silver, the calm of green? Here’s a selection of design works with strong color statements, each a reminder of the manifold pleasures that colors bring to everyday life.

Julie Richoz, Layered transparent glass vessels.

Julie Richoz (born 1990, Switzerland) studied at ECAL, and now lives and works in Paris. She works with materials like glasses and ceramics, playing with perceptions of space, emptiness and depth. In 2012, she was awarded the Grand Prix Design and has completed a residency at the prestigious CIRVA (International Center for Glass and Plastic Arts) in Marseilles, where she created a series of transparent vessels (pictured) by superimposing the glasses in layers to obtain deep and nuanced colors.

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s Ploum sofa.

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, born 1971 and 1976, respectively in France, studied at the École Nationale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and at the École des Beaux-Arts in Cergy-Pontoise. Since 1999 the brothers have worked together as partners in their own Paris-based design studio. Their work ranges from small utilitarian objects to architectural projects. In addition to the design of domestic and office furniture and home accessories, a primary focus of their work is the design and organization of interior space. The Ploum Sofa was chosen as one of the icons of good French design at the “No Taste for Bad Taste” exhibition (May 2018) organized by Le French Design at ICFF, New York. The exhibition also included works by Phillippe Starck, Ligne Roset, Fermob, and Hermes.

François Azambourg , The Douglas Vase.

A dialogue between the French designer, Francois Azambourg and the French glass researcher center. CIAV in Meisenthal, France, led to the production of an extraordinary object of art, the Douglas vase. Made through the unusual process of blowing molten glass between two raw planks of Douglas pine, the vase emerged, imprinted with the memory of the tree – grooves, veins, knots and all. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Douglas vase in 2017, Azambourg and artisanal glassblowers at CIAV created new shapes and scales of the original Douglas vase and exhibited them at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris before they travelled to New York for a special production showcase at the Brooklyn Glass Workshop.

Nick Caves, Mylar Streamers Sculpture, “The Let Go” art installation exhibition, Park Avenue Armory, New York, June 2018.

Nick Cave is an artist, educator and an arts messenger, working in both the visual and performing arts through a wide variety of medium, including sculpture, installation, video, sound, and performance. Cave is well known for his Soundsuits, sculptural forms on the scale of the body that camouflage the body, masking and creating a second skin that conceals race, class, and gender, forcing the viewer to cast aside judgements.

Four years ago, Nick staged an art installation exhibition entitled “The Let Go” held at Park Avenue Armory The centrepiece of that exhibition is a 100-foot long curtain of colourful Mylar streamers that shimmers through the cavernous space from an aerial conveyer belt. As with Sounduits, “The Let Go” offers another refreshing opportunity for Nick, an artist known for his critiques of racism and violence, to express his views through art.

A recipient of numerous prestigious awards, Caves’ works are in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the De Young Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Smithsonian Institute and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others.

Josh Sperling, Poppycock 2017, Acrylic paint on canvas and plywood, 81 x 51 cm.

With a background in furniture-making and graphic design, this Brooklyn-based artist (b. 1984) makes 3-D plywood structures, which he covers with acrylic and canvas, fitting them together like geometric puzzles. He then paints on the canvas, giving the finished work the effect of colors popping out in 3-D space. “Poppycock” is comprised of three colourful ovals shuffled into a multi-dimensional pile. The snaking forms – what he calls “squiggles” – that comprise Poppycock and so many other works are one of Sperling’s signatures. Sperling’s use of bold colors evoke an American 1950’s retro-futuristic style of graphic design and is influenced by Frank Stella and Elizabeth Kelly. But where Stella and Kelly tend to be starck, Sperling’s works are more joyful, tongue-in-cheek, and almost silly.

Josh Sperling Knucklehead 2017.

Isamu Noguchi, Akari lights, on display in a showroom, Gifu, Japan.

When the late Japanese designer Isamu Noguchi sculptured lanterns from paper in 1951, he called them Akari, the Japanese word for light. A simple act of inserting a light bulb into a form usually illuminated by candlelight led to an iconic design where in the words of Noguchi, “the harshness of electricity is transformed through the magic of paper back to the light of our origin, the sun.” The artist’s signature work, the rock-like shape and materials of the Akari light epitomizes Noguichi’s reverence for nature.

Understated elegance and tasteful colors typify the design of New York-based Laura Kitar, who has been hailed as “a designer with the soul of an artist.”

Gio Ponti, who died in 1979 at the age of 87, was one of the most influential Italian architect and designer of the 20th century. Shown here is a circa 1950 dining table designed by Ponti.

Baker sofa by Danish architect and designer, Finn Juhl (1912-1989). Juhl was one of the leading personalities behind the Danish design movement in the 1940s. He was also responsible for introducing Danish Modern to the United States and Japan.

Murano glass bottles by Venini & Co. Perhaps no other glassmaker has done as much as Venini & Co (founded in 1921) in extending the tradition of Venetian glass into the modern era. With the contribution of leading artists which were hired as designers, Venini & Co became a force in the post-war period..

Suspension lamps by LZF. These lamps are minimalist sculptures of wood transformed into lighting fixtures that are at once functional and artful.

Abstract tea cup with saucer. A swirling wave of black and white lines encircles this tea cup that rests on a minimalist black saucer accentuated with a red circle. It was designed in the early 1990s by Barbara Brenner, one of Germany’s most recognized female designers.

Still on the black and white theme is this simple yet mesmerizing ‘Shadow Vase’ by New Mexico-based artist and ceramicist, Jessica Hans.

Marcus Neiman, Large ‘Pleated Bowl’ in amber and blue filigree glass. This pleasing and highly tactile bowl is spun in a centrifuge and fused for perfect pleating. A similar piece is in beige and brown glass.
Pleated Bowl in beige/brown filigree glass by Marcus Neiman.

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