Japanese designer Nendo, has set up his show at one of Brera’s most magical spaces, the Chiostri di San Simpliciano, staging a comic story starring chairs.
With this exhibition, Nendo abstracts archetypes of manga comics. the chairs are happy, distressed, embarrassed, surprised; they leap and bound, zoom past, or slowly slink away. each chair has its own personality, allowing it to stand on its own or, when placed next to the others, to become part of a collective narrative.
Profoundly rooted in the Japanese culture – they can be linked to Ukiyo-e prints developed during the Edo period (AD 1603-1868) – these comics are of a symbolic nature, adapted here to just one furniture type.
A different configuration creates a different story; the chairs come alive in a symphonious display of Nendo’s playful japanese design.
New York’s Friedman Benda Gallery has made a mission out of representing designers who create interesting artworks.
It engaged Nendo for what proved to be a performance in chair form based on the structure and concept of manga comics, a 2D and very abstract form of expression composed of a number of lines.
50 Manga Chairs is Friedman Benda’s third solo show with Nendo and the Japanese design group’s most ambitious body of work to date.
Fifty chairs on a white platform that highlighted their mirror finish propose a sequence of movements arranged in a grid pattern.
Just as the manga comics are presented as a series of frames on a single sheet of paper to create a sequence, Nendo’s presentation features 50 standard chairs lined up in a grid, each with some kind of emotional cue affixed as a design element: speech bubbles, sweat, tears and effect lines.
Nendo has created an exhibition that shows just what Manga comics can have to do with furniture design: by re-shaping all 50 chairs with one and the same basic shape in line with the typical design elements of the Manga figures.
Thus, the chairs “sweat” or “cry” – and they all have a reflective finish to mirror reality, the way Mangas do in comics.
“Each one evokes a sense of history and each one has a Manga design feature”, says Nendo ” Sometimes, a comic speech bubble or an effect line is added to the basic structure to visualise a sound or action, or emotional manga symbols conveying perspiration or tears, lending a sense of history and character to the chair. ”
Nendo’s 2009 New York debut ” Ghost Stories ” featured the acclaimed Cabbage Chair, which was initially shown in the groundbreaking exhibition XXIst Century Man at 21_21 Design Site in Tokyo.
Nendo’s 2011 exhibition Scatter Shelf toyed with optical illusions and repetitive forms, the idea of structure in space.
This concept dominated the development of the models for thie 50 Chairs exhibition in Milan, which is why it was decided to avoid different colours and thicknesses and to stick to a minimal material expression.
The 50 chairs are laid out in a grid-like structure to reflect the layout of the manga narratives – a series of frames on a single sheet of paper to create a sequence.
Each piece in the collection is made of polished steel, complete with a mirror finish and, similarly to the comics, avoids any colour and texture.
“The mirror finish generates new spatial layers as the mirror surface reflects the real world, just like manga does”
Each piece each raises up a sense of story, with some kind of ‘emotion’ attached as a design element with the intention to imitate the illustrate emotions or actions in the stories through these details.
For example, one chair may represent a speech bubble, while another sweat or tears. An effect line – a series of lines often used to visualise sound or action – is presented through a chair with numerous poles protruding from its back.
“Manga is a means of expression with a high degree of flatness and abstraction, and which is composed of a series of lines” – Nendo
Manga is a type of comic book and graphic novel conforming to a style developed in Japan in the late 19th Century, typically aimed at adults and children alike.
Manga stories are printed in black-and-white, usually divided up in large manga magazines, often containing many stories, each presented in a single episode to be continued in the next issue.
Nendo, meaning ‘modelling clay’, is led by designer Oki Sato (Sato) and is well known for its vast annual output of products, interior design and architecture projects.
Nendo expresses Sato’s desire of having certain flexibility and the ability to reinvent oneself. He takes his inspiration from Japanese uncluttered style to create a language of his time. The philosophy of Sato is reflected in his designs, thanks to which he transforms the interactions of people with the objects surrounding them by creating a parenthesis in their life.
This desire is found in the uncluttered and characteristic shapes of his designs, to which he always adds a touch of humour and conviviality.
Founded in Tokyo in 2002, with a second office established in Milan in 2005, Nendo has received many distinctions, including the Iconic Design Award ‘Interior Designer of the Year’ in 2015, Wallpaper* Magazine’s ‘Designer of the Year’ in 2012, and the ‘Red Dot Design Award’ in Germany in 2008.
In 2011, Nendo presented Visible Structures, a solo commission for the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA. Visible Structures was also included in Modern by Design, a collaborative exhibition between the High Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.
Works by Nendo are included in the permanent collections of the 21_21 Design Sight, Tokyo, Japan; Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, NY; Design Museum, Holon, Israel; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Indianapolis Museum of Arts, IN; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; M+ Museum, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China; Museum of Art and Design, NY; Museum of Modern Art, NY; Museum of Fine Art, Houston, TX; Musée des Art Décoratifs, Paris, France; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; Triennale Design Museum, Milan, Italy; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK, among others.
Nendo’s first-ever large-scale retrospective will open at the Design Museum Holon, Israel in June.
About Friedman Benda
Established and emerging artists fill the walls and floor space at this contemporary Chelsea gallery, founded in 2007 by Marc Benda and Barry Friedman—two gallerists known for pushing the visual envelope.
Friedman Benda is a gallery dedicated to presenting established and emerging designers who create historically significant work and are at the forefront of their practice.
The gallery’s exhibitions and publications have played a vital role in the rise of the design market and education, and take a comprehensive approach to work that intersects the fields of design, craft and art.
The exhibitions are ever rotating, and showcase the work of architects, sculptors and furniture designers with names such as Joris Laarman, Shiro Kuramata, Ron Arad and Gottfried Helnwein.