Katie Stout in Artsy Editorial
How a Revolution in “Ugly” Design Is Upending Conventions of Beauty
BY ANDREW GARDNER
Call it sloppy, weird, retro, kitsch, maybe even ugly. What it isn’t: symmetrical, refined, or uniform. Young and established artists and designers alike, working across a variety of media, are finding their voice in the beauty of the imperfect, carving or hacking their materials, or casting objects in unconventional media.
You can see it in New York-based designer Katie Stout’s irreverent, girlish vanity mirrors and floppy hat rugs; in Brooklyn-based Misha Kahn’s engorged, sculptural tables and chairs; and in Detroit artist Chris Schanck’s wonderfully textured cast furniture. Or take American designer Liz Collins, who experiments with bold colors, energetic zigzags, and hanging warps in her textiles—woven forms that artfully straddle the line between order and chaos.
For Katie Stout, whose brand of so-called “naive pop” calls invokes signs and symbols from everyday life, the embrace of the ugly or imperfect expresses a streak of nihilism. “I think a lot about [the early 20th-century art movement] Dada and how, after the devastation of World War I, nothing made sense so they made nonsensical work,” she says. “I think people are reacting to nationalism and the absurd political climate by making absurdist work.”
Case in point: her barely standing stuffed chair series, which overturn any prevailing concept of what a chair should look like and how it should be used.
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