Jorge Pardo



Not on display

Jorge Pardo born 1963
Plywood, plastic and lights
Display dimensions variable
Presented by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, courtesy of the American Acquisitions Committee 2005, accessioned 2008


Untitled 2003 is an installation of nine lamps hung at different heights and distributed at varying distances from each other around the exhibition space. The set contains three distinguishable designs, in which outer assemblages of interlocking birch plywood and PVC acrylic pieces surround inner chromed light fixtures. Five of the lamps are constructed from eight vertical sections of plywood, which have an industrially applied black coating and have been jigsaw-cut into sinuous, rippling lines, held together by nine horizontal cross-shaped hoops, also of plywood, creating an intricate and illuminated tangle of swirling, abstract calligraphy. In the remaining four lamps, in which two further design variations are observable, six delicate loops of plywood flow out like tentacles from a central lit core of six curvilinear white acrylic strips, each of which has three decorative cross motifs cut out and is attached at the top and bottom to a horizontal flower-shaped plywood disk. Combined, the lamps create an irregular play of light and shadow against the walls, ceiling and floor, which itself might be altered by viewers’ movements through the space.As with much of Pardo’s work, the lamps marry aesthetic and imaginative appeal with simple quotidian utility, and were made in his Los Angeles studio, where he collaborates with a team of architects, designers and technicians, utilizing computer-aided design and production processes. Consequently, through their appearance, manufacture and the context in which they are displayed, the lamps enjoy a dual, and potentially ambiguous status, as artwork and as functional design objects. Their exuberant and elegant organicity evokes mysterious natural phenomena, such as fluorescent jellyfish, or strange plant forms, suggesting domains beyond both the gallery and other mundane sites of human experience, yet their obvious materiality and connection to their surroundings, their potential functionality and domestic associations, undercut such subjective and poetic imaginings.Pardo has commented on his interest in art and its relation to context:

That former notion of inside and outside is completely reformulating itself. It happens in a very blunt way – you go to a gallery and then you go outside and realize that the garbage you are looking at on the ground is more interesting, or the car you’re getting into. One of the reasons I became interested in the functional was precisely because of that problematic.(Quoted in Jorge Pardo, 2008, p135.)

Pardo’s installation encourages viewers to question common assumptions regarding the status of objects and their producers, as well as the context and manner in which they are encountered and interpreted. How and why do we differentiate between artworks, design and other categories of objects? What separates the artist from the designer and the technician, the gallery from the domestic interior and the outside world in general? Is it possible to disentangle art viewing from other modes of vision, use and consumption? Such questions are implicit in Pardo’s works as a whole, which are typically conceived in relationship to each other and their surroundings, and have included boats, furniture, textiles, lighting, wall and floor decorations, numerous other forms of interior design, and architecture. Working in this way, Pardo evokes earlier traditions of twentieth century modernism, exemplified by art and design practitioners associated with the Bauhaus, Russian constructivist artists, such as El Lissitzky (1890–1941) and Alexander Rodchenko (1891–1956), as well as later American sculptors such as Donald Judd (1928–94) and Scott Burton (1939–89), all of who worked at the intersection of art, design and architecture. However, the organic and decorative nature of Pardo’s work questions the austerity, rigor and avoidance of outside referents that characterized many of his ‘design-art’ predecessors, and is reminiscent of designers and architects such as Alvar Aalto (1898–1976) and Ray and Charles Eames (1912–88, 1907–78). More particularly, it reflects the artist’s interest in painting, especially the work of Henri Matisse (1869–1954). In this context, the lamps can be understood as part of a wider interrogation of the historic relationships between art, design and architecture and the legacy of modernist design practices and their ideological underpinnings.The nine lamps owned by Tate are part of a larger group exhibited at the Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles in 2003. This group was divided into four equally numbered sets, each of which represents a unique combination of the various designs.Further reading:Jorge Pardo, exhibition catalogue, Haunch of Venison, Zürich 2005.Christina Végh, Lane Relyea and Chris Kraus, Jorge Pardo, London 2008, pp.80–93, reproduced p.89.Doris Krystof (ed.), Jorge Pardo, exhibition catalogue, K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf 2009.Ian Dudley July 2010

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