No object is too humble for Patrick Jouin’s attention. Since establishing his studio in 1998, the French designer has tackled everything from a self-cleaning loo and a Nutella spreader, to chairs for Cassina and interiors for several Alain Ducasse restaurants. But, for Jouin, it’s not so much the product that’s of interest – it’s how each item is used. This all-important relationship between object and human behaviour is the subject of his new solo show at the Museum of Art and Design in New York (his first in the US), titled ‘Patrick Jouin: Design and Gesture’.
Stretched across the gallery is a large, multimedia table installation, which shows implements for everything from food preparation to the final act of tasting. A chopping board and pots and pans for Alessi give way to tableware for La Faïencerie de Gien, accompanied by chairs for the likes of Kartell. The table is backed by a screen, showing a short film, in which a disembodied hand reveals the fluid, dancer-like movement it takes to use each product.
‘Design is evolution based on reviewing gesture,’ Jouin explains. For the Philippe Starck protégé, good design is about analysing the way we cook, eat and drink, and honing the ergonomics of an object accordingly.
But this sincerity of approach doesn’t deny all humour from his work. Take the playful ‘Tarti'nutella’, which includes a subtle serration - an ingenious way of ensuring it doesn't slip too far into the jar.
All this focus on gesture doesn’t forfeit experimentation with new technologies. Elsewhere in the show, you’ll find his bone-like ‘Solid’ series of chairs, tables and stools, created in 2004, in collaboration with Belgium-based Materialise. Until then, rapid prototyping had only been used for small-scale models, but Jouin wanted to explore the possibility of creating full-scale furniture with the technology. The resulting, extremely lightweight but durable pieces were created using a series of rapid prototyping techniques called 'stereolithography'.
Preceding all these, however, is his striking lighting installation in MAD’s lobby. Visitors are met by a series of suspended, rough-hewn glass tubes, which plummet from the ceiling. Handcrafted in Venice, this floating chandelier is the latest in a series of Jouin works manufactured by Leucos/FDV Collection – including his ‘Ether’ fixture and ‘Mercure’ wall light – the first being an ambitious installation composed of hand-blown Murano glass balls for Alain Ducasse’s Mix in Las Vegas.