Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Museum of Design Atlanta: MODA is Moving (Up)

Lamey Chandelier
Lamey Chandelier
One of Atlanta's best kept secrets is about to come speeding out of silence on a sexy Italian motorcycle.

The Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) is captivating, fascinating, and instills a sense of wanderlust for the design industry that I certainly had not expected when I visited.

I discovered the museum quite by accident—through a random Web search. Having dabbled in design (web graphic design, specifically), the finding piqued my curiosity. But having not heard anything about this destination from anyone, I assumed that this would be a brief tour…which is exactly what I told the friend I recruited to come along.

When we arrived, we were told that the museum was actually closed (I hadn't read the website information closely enough), but the administrators welcomed us in and gave us a private tour—I could not have been more impressed, especially given that they're in the middle of a move!

The Museum

MODA is currently located in Tower Two of the Marriott Marquis Atlanta, on the lobby and garden levels. I say "currently" because they're in the process of moving to their new location, which I'll comment on momentarily.

The Museum is "officially" closed until the re-opening in March, so this post is telling not only of my visit but also foreshadowing what's to come in the next couple of months.

The Museum of Design Atlanta is also a member of the Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program, as is Georgia Aquarium and the High Museum of Art, so they're in very good company.

This was a fantastic discovery because having lived in Washington, D.C. for nearly nine years, I was accustomed to having the prestigious Smithsonian museums in my back yard. As it turns out, they still are…in the form of MODA exhibits.

The Exhibits

The upcoming exhibits are adrenalin-rushing exciting, but the current (now closed) exhibits are equally technically intriguing and aesthetically pleasing. We had the opportunity to see two exhibits, Lamey and Adler.

Serving Form

Serving Form exhibit
Serving Form
Serving Form, an exhibit by Kristofer Lamey, combines precision engineering, physics, artistic lighting, and beauty.

Lamey is an artist who creates one-of-a-kind or six-of-a-kind (as told in a video presentation) works of art, with the sixth always being black. So, to see any of his work on display is a rare treat indeed.

Lamey has several projects on display at MODA. The one that stands out the most vibrantly is an interpretation of a SMPTE test card…known best by persons of a more seasoned generation (before cable television) as the pattern displayed on television sets when a station went off the air for the night.

For the first time ever, I got to actually stand on a table (another Lamey project) on display in a museum! Sounds a little gauche, but the artist, Lamey himself, I was told demonstrated the table's strength, purposely designed, by jumping up and down on it…how's that for an interactive exhibit?

The tables on display are sleek, elegant, and "I-want-to-take-one-home" beautiful.

One of Lamey's ladders is also on display. At this point he notes his observation of the basic building blocks of art…the square, circle, and triangle. The glowing rungs of the ladder we saw were inspiring…my tour companion and I both commented on numerous ideas that were sparked from seeing this one simple artistic expression. You never know where inspiration will come from.

There were other incredible fascinating exhibits on display, too many to write about in a single sitting, but I would be remiss if I did not share with you the Sisters project, examples of which are also on display.

While substantial in size, the Sisters chandelier on display is smaller than some of his other works in this series. Chandeliers, made of a minimum number of elements and no electrical wires, have new meaning through Lamey's artistry.

Sisters Project
Sisters Project
Reminiscent of Chihuly, Lamey's chandeliers are sleek and flowing. And the platforms on which he builds them stand quite beautifully on their own (a couple of those were also on display).

Although mostly uninstalled, we were escorted to a multi-media room and treated to a 10-minute video of Lamey presenting his exhibition to an audience in Berlin. In the video he explained some of the techniques of his work and, successfully, demonstrated that he in fact has a sense of humor.

QR Code

One of the features of the exhibit, rating quite high on the "cool-factor" scale, is its use of QR Code technology.

QR Code is a two-dimensional coding system developed in Japan primarily for package tracking. Today, its uses are much more broad, including pairing the codes with museum pieces.

Lamey QR Code
QR Code for Sisters Project
It works beautifully, for those who have a camera phone with Internet connectivity. You'll first need to download the QR Code application (free) to your phone and then simply hover your camera  over the code and presto, you have more information about the object d'art in front of you.

This comes in really handy if you're in a hurry. You can snap a photo of the code and look up the information about the piece later. I love modern technology!

Adler Arts

Jeffrey Lee Adler, also exhibiting at MODA, is a local artist with a colorful background, and he sings too. He gave us a tour of Gallery 4, and one of the museum volunteers joined us, a lovely young lady who happens also to be an artist.

Displaying several techniques, Jeffrey's works that are on display are part whimsical, part homages to other artists, and part self-designed furniture embellished with his unique stroke of the brush.

I personally was most impressed with his foray into glass painting. Jeffrey explained that his watercolor experience helped him with the "reverse" approach to glass painting…you have to paint on the glass the last layers first. I think a degree in stellar cartography would be easier than painting backwards, for me at least.

New Location

MODA is about to become a household acronym in the city of Atlanta. Privy to prominent tourist foot traffic, MODA's new location will be directly across the street from the world-famous High Museum of Art.

The downtown location is officially closed, but "might" be open tomorrow for First Thursdays Arts Walk. If you'd like to catch a final glimpse of the closing exhibits (and they're worth seeing), give them a call first to make sure they are indeed open.

Doors to the new space open on Sunday, March 20, 2011 (or the day before if you're a high-level supporter) to what I expect to be enormous fanfare.

Upcoming Exhibits

Lamey SMPTE exhibit
Lamey SMPTE exhibit
Three of the museum's 2011 exhibitions have been announced.

Water Dream: Experience the Bathroom Like Never Before promises to deliver exactly what its title implies. From the image associated with the announcement, I assume its focus is on the design of water-emitting bathroom fixtures…we'll soon see.

Opening in fall of 2011, Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of International AIDS Posters is timely in its opening…it will be running through the end of 2011 and during World AIDS Day, December 1. 

This exhibit is important for many reasons. AIDS has claimed the lives of countless friends, family, and fellow citizens of Earth and the spread of the disease continues, at a frightening pace in younger generations. Awareness is our greatest tool in the campaign against the spread of AIDS, so I applaud MODA for what I'm sure will be a sobering exhibit.

Lamey table
Lamey table
The piece de resistance of MODA's 2011 season, in my humble opinion, will be its opening exhibition, Passione Italiana: Design of the Italian Motorcycle. Through a partnership with Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, MODA will share the passion of Italian motorcycles with an exhibit of nine bikes that span five decades...sounds like a great ride to me!

The (membership) Deal

The best deal in town right now, MODA is offering a year membership for only $9. That's a major bargain given a regular adult ticket for admission is $10. Why is a $1 savings a bargain? Because you get member benefits that include:
  • Unlimited free admission to MODA galleries
  • Two (2) museum guest passes for one-time use
  • Free/discounted admission to MODA events
  • Special invitations to member-only preview/events
  • Subscription to MODA's e-newsletter
  • 10% discount on museum merchandise
There are of course several levels of membership, which have specific benefits including Smithsonian Institution membership, invitations to special events, and even discounted space rental for your special event.

The Return

Will I return to MODA, you ask? "Italian motorcycles" scream "Yes!" I will be there on opening day when the doors of the new location are flung open...surely day-dreaming of touring Tuscany on a Ducati.

Touring the Museum of Design Atlanta

Date toured: Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Location: moving to Midtown
Hours: closed for relocation

Cost: $10 (special $9 annual membership, for a limited time)

Lamey Ray Gun
Lamey Ray Gun

(Correction: 01/08/2011, "Something Borrowed, Something New: A World of Bridal Fashion" will not be showing. The mention of "Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of International AIDS Posters" has been added.)

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