Lexus has been playing the marketing ‘long game’ in its quietly considered collaborative support of artists and designers at non-automotive events from Milan to Miami for almost a decade now.
Its latest was an installation called Shaped by Air by Suchi Reddy, inspired by the Lexus Electrified Sport Concept and exhibited at the ICA Miami’s sculpture garden during the bustling Miami Art Week 2022 and Design Miami 2022 in late November and early December.
Reddy – founder of New York-based Reddymade Architecture and Design – was approached by Lexus for the project and agreed to get involved partly because she was impressed with the brand’s collaborative track record and also because of its ambitious electrification aims.
After accepting the assignment, she visited Lexus’ Californian design studio, where the Electrified Sport Concept was conceived under the direction of chief designer Alex Shen, to learn more. ‘The car was developed by wind sculpture and inspired by aerobatic planes,’ Shen said. ‘We took her through the processes we use and waited to see what she would come up with.’
‘I wanted to de-materialise it,’ said Reddy, ‘as the car seems like such a physical object and I was putting it between two big stone sculptures. So I started abstracting, tracing all its lines, and thought, “Matisse could have designed this car with his cut-out way of making shapes and putting them together.” So I played with the shapes and they started looking like a jungle. Then I wove the car shapes into this jungle.‘
Reddy was impressed with the Lexus studio’s use of clay in its modelling and wanted an element of that handmade approach in her final piece too. ‘During the fabrication process, it was about taking this object that is made from such sophisticated manufacturing techniques, but making those shapes by hand,’ she continued.
‘Bending the metal around wood and then working it by hand with a mallet – with copper on one side and leather on the other. Then we put the sculpture out into the sunlight and it did its own thing. I see the leaves, the light and the spiders’ webs – those are the unexpected things – and the turned mesh form gives these really complicated shadows which look almost like Islamic patterns.’
The final sculpture is a striking three-dimensional collage of powder-coated metal mesh elements suspended in the air by stalks attached to green-coloured, abstracted shapes above a mirrored plinth. Lit differently during the day and night and with the atmospheric assistance of some judicious spurts of mist, it really benefits from viewing up close – and from various angles – to be fully appreciated.
Both Shen and Reddy say the collaborative experience has had an impact on how they approach their respective disciplines since. ‘Now I want to make a building out of mesh, mixed in with trees,’ Reddy enthused, while Shen added, ‘It makes me think we should evaluate our vehicles in many more lights, not just perfect conditions. That could be something to develop.’
Judging from the positive responses from the opening event’s attendees – who were almost exclusively of a non-automotive bent – and the apparent comfort with which Shen and Reddy were happy to talk about the project, it would appear Lexus’ aim of mixing its brand authentically beyond the car world has again been met.
‘Design is a really important pillar for our brand to allow conversations with people who don’t think about cars as much as we do,’ Lexus’ global head of marketing, Brian Bolain, said with a wry smile at the post-unveil Q&A. ‘This is our fifth Miami installation but we don’t stipulate. We simply ask that each artist takes inspiration from what we do. We want to keep being engaging and surprising.’
Suchi Reddy, SuchiReddy.com (opens in new tab)
Lexus, Lexus.co.uk (opens in new tab)
Guy Bird is a London-based writer, editor and consultant specialising in cars and car design, but also covers aviation, architecture, street art, sneakers and music. His journalistic experience spans more than 25 years in the UK and global industry. See more at www.guybird.com (opens in new tab)
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