“New West Coast Design 2,” on view through the weekend at the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design, seeks to answer these questions in a multifaceted show.
Featuring furniture, sculpture, ceramics, glass, textiles, gadgets and bicycles, the exhibit — a whirlwind sampling of current design — looks like an expensive jumble sale. Sculptural light fixtures dangle from the ceiling and hover over chairs, skateboards and bicycles are mounted on the wall, and tables and chairs are packed into every corner.
The Myla Book Case will be recognizable to design blog fans. Created by San Francisco-based designer Magda Lattin for her firm Fonga Donga, the aluminum bookcase has off-kilter, slanted, but useable shelves. Lattin’s adorable, squat, robot-like mailbox, titled Gimme, would inspire compulsive letter-sending if sprinkled across any metropolis.
But many items in the show seem derivative. Carlo Aiello’s stainless steel Parabola Chair, although striking, is a variation on Harry Bertoia’s iconic 1952 Diamond chair. Jared Rusten’s Palo Alto Low Chair, an elegant piece in walnut and maple, fuses Danish modern with 1970s chunkiness.
The massive, upcycled Propane Tank Club Chair by Colin Selig is bubbly, curvaceous and looks like something from a James Bond film.
Exhibit organizers admit that key influences to items on view range from Bauhaus to Eames and beyond. But many designs offer only minor adjustments to iconic aesthetic trends firmly established in the 20th century, including art deco, surrealism, modernism, brutalism, lean mid-century modern- and pop-art pomp — looks that were shocking then, but dated now.
The comfort and functionality of many pieces — bar the bicycle that collapses into a suitcase — is also debatable. A concrete and steel bench is reminiscent of penitentiary fixtures. A bench using a stunning slab of mahogany is spiked with steel hardware at each end, limiting seating to two people instead of three or four.
Would anyone want to clean the dust that will collect in the Brush Coffee Table? Covered in upward-facing brush bristles, the table has a small wood square, with downward-facing bristles, that rests on top to make the table function.
Today’s design advances may be in engineering rather than aesthetics. On view is Type A Machine’s Series 1 3-D printer. One of the first of its kind (and devised in San Francisco), the printer can transform digital designs into actual prototypes or products. However, exhibit notes do not explain how it does so, or elaborate on what materials are needed.
IF YOU GO
New West Coast Design 2
Where: San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design, 2569 Third St., S.F.
When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday-Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
Admission: $6 to $8
Contact: (415) 773-0303, www.sfmcd.org