Today I got the opportunity to go to see the Dutch Modern Design exhibition at the Tokyo Opera City Gallery in Shinjuku. The exhibition consisted of work from Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, Dick Bruna and Arbeid Door Onvolwaardigen (a Dutch children’s furniture manufacturer). However, it was Rietveld, the artist from the De Stijl (the style) movement, which I was particularly keen to see. Having seen some of Rietveld’s work in previous exhibitions, this collection of his industrial and architectural designs was much more comprehensive by comparison. Pity that the gallery has a strict policy on taking photographs, so I had to make do with a few recorded notes and thoughts of the exhibits on a piece of scrap of paper.
Before the conception of Reitveld’s radical, Red and Blue Armchair in 1917, exhibited were chairs which bared similar hallmarks by appearance. Rietveld’s earlier designs had a rawness about them. Uncomplicated and simple by appearance. The exhibits were displayed in an order which conveyed the designer’s progression; not only in his chair designs but also tables and buffet cabinets. A central characteristic was emerging in his work. The focus being on spatial, very simplified geometric forms and making use of new technologies and available materials at that time.
Comments made by Rietveld on the Red and Blue armchair in 1919:
‘with this chair an attempt was made to allow each component simply to be, and that in the most original form according to the nature of use and material, the form, that is the most responsive, in order, through proportions, to achieve harmony with the rest.
the structure helps to interconnect the parts without mutilating them, so that the one predominantly covers up the other or makes it subsidiary to itself as little as possible, in order that the whole above all stands free and clear in space and the form wins from
the material. this wooden joint makes it possible to construct a large chair like this with rails of 25 x 26 cm’.
A nice touch to the exhibition were the model kits of the chair sold in the gallery shop. For only 900 yen (7 quid), I thought, I’ll have one of them! When constructing the 16- piece maquette, it kind of deepened my understanding with this simple yet one of the most celebrated works of the De Stijl art movement.