The work of Berlin-based artist Olaf Nicolai deals with design’s complex role in contemporary culture. Whether re-planting a forest to duplicate a 19th century landscape painting or creating a typeface to conform to the aesthetic principles discussed in a particular text, Nicolai is concerned with the personal and cultural resonance of surfaces. As Igor Zabel remarks in his essay on Nicolai in Cream 3, (Phaidon Press, London 2003) “Design is [the] development of models that can be used in mass production. It is essentially “superficial” and directly appealing, even when it is highly functional. At the same time, design is essentially involved in systems of production and power. A user, directly addressed by designed objects, is immediately placed in a particular position in the social network.” It is this social placement, this identity available to consumers/viewers/artists through design, that interests Nicolai in his artistic projects and artist’s books.
The exhibition 30 Farben at Printed Matter takes one of Nicolai’s artist’s books as its starting point. Designed as a source book which functions as a manual for creating individual small-scale variations of a traveling room-sized installation, 30 Farben [30 Colors] will also serve as Nicolai’s guide to creating the large-scale installation at Printed Matter. Using a series of single color wallpaper sheets hung on the walls and overhead cork panels of the store, thirty repeating Pantone colors will transform the space into a three-dimensional color showcase using the commercial printing industry’s standardized “language of color.” This phrase – the advertising slogan for the Pantone company – was the original inspiration for Nicolai’s project, which questions its sincere promise of creativity in the consumer environment. After the exhibition the installation will remain on the walls throughout the summer, integrating itself into the daily life and programs of Printed Matter.
Opening: Featuring an audio performance by I-Sound at 6 PM