Jorge Pardo gets 2010 MacArthur ‘genius’ award


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Jorge Pardo, 47, has some serious fans. He’s a darling of certain design magazine editors because of his art-architecture-design crossover appeal. He got a glowing review this summer for his show at Gagosian Gallery Beverly Hills from the Times’ David Pagel. And the powers-that-be behind the MacArthur awards have just named the L.A. artist a 2010 fellow, which carries with it a $500,000 grant.

Pardo made his name in the art world in the 1990s by working the fine (or post-Duchamp, vigorously erased but ever visible) lines between art and design, and also craft and commodity. In 1998, he opened what would become his home, at 4166 Sea View Lane in Los Angeles, as a work of art (MOCA presented the “exhibition”), before settling in himself. A couple of years later, he famously covered the lobby and bookstore of Dia Center for the Arts in New York in glossy, colorful tiles that made a painting out of the building’s interior. And for years he has been making his signature hanging lamps for public spaces or the hideaways of wealthy art collectors.


His work was early on grouped with Andrea Zittel, who also rethinks domestic spaces. But over the years she has in some ways grown more philosophical, and he more technological in emphasis. Being an artist for Pardo means, among other things, being a fabricator. The last time I visited his studio he had a dozen employees running various work stations: It was part woodworking shop, part plastics manufacturer, and part graphic design outfit, complete with laser cutters and a wood router to turn computer images into three dimensions.

In 2007, LACMA director Michael Govan tapped Pardo to design LACMA’s pre-Columbian galleries, and he produced a series of undulating wood cabinets to display the artifacts. In this paper, Christopher Knight called the installation “conceptually sophisticated and visually smashing.”

When I interviewed Govan around the same time for a 2008 Esquire magazine feature, he picked Pardo as one of five artists who will be remembered 75 years from now. (Yes, it was their 75th-anniversary issue.) “People think Jorge Pardo’s work is about furniture because it’s made of wood,’ Govan said. ‘That’s such a red herring. He’s really working on the boundaries of art, architecture, and design — crossing genres and asking the question: What is art?”

Govan also pointed out that most of Pardo’s work is just plain gorgeous.

— Jori Finkel

To read about other MacArthur winners, click here.


Above: Pardo’s original design for the bookstore of the Dia Center for the Arts in New York. Credit: Jorge Pardo.