This summer, the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (SJDC) at Parsons The New School for Design will explore daily life in New York through the stories of the simple, and not-so-simple, objects that are part of the collective experience of its more than eight million inhabitants, with Masterpieces of Everyday New York: Objects as Story.
“We were interested in how everyday life in this city is snagged by objects, and in how stories grant luster to the mundane,” said Radhika Subramaniam, director and chief curator of the SJDC. “Our objects are handheld, mobile, monumental and even immaterial. Whether well-designed or just well used, they live and survive with us, creating a ripple of small meanings.”
From historical curios to sidewalk debris, the exhibition features 62 objects in total, accompanied by stories from their respective contributors. Acknowledging the justifiably famous British Museum exhibition and radio program, A History of the World in 100 Objects, the exhibition situates objects as narratives of their time.
Photograph from "Didn't Quite Make It." A photo documentary project by @umbrellanyc on Instagram
Objects range from icons great and small from the celestial ceiling of Grand Central Station, Lever House and the Empire State Building, to food carts, subway tokens and the ubiquitous black umbrella, from gum dots on city sidewalks and the makeshift homes of homeless people, to ghost bikes and a small 9/11 memorial placed on a tile at the Union Square subway station. It also includes immaterial ones, such as pedestrian walking patterns, the sounds of downstairs neighbors or a morning coffee exchange.
For this summer show, curators Subramaniam and Margot Bouman challenged the diverse faculty at The New School, which includes architects and philosophers, historians and designers, musicians, sociologists, anthropologists and artists, to select objects that brought to life aspects of New York.
Photos by Arthur Ou and Daisy Wong as part of the exhibition
The exhibition was inspired by a new undergraduate curriculum that Parsons will launch this fall, which reconceives art and design education for contemporary times, and includes the core course Objects as History: From Prehistory to Industrialization.
“The new curriculum has given us an opportunity to really rethink the way the art history survey is taught to first-year art and design students,” said Bouman, director of Academic Affairs of the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons. “We’ve done away with the survey textbook, and will instead use New York’s world-class collections as our classroom. We want our students to understand these objects as expressions and embodiments of particular places and times, and prepare them to connect their practice to New York City, and to the world.”
Masterpieces of Everyday New York: Objects as Story, will be on view through September 4.
The SJDC is also hosting two other exhibitions this summer: the 2013 Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers: Range, on view June 25 through August 1; and the Parsons MFA Photography Thesis Exhibition on view August 12 through September 3.