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Gopnik's Daily Pic: Mexican Design

By Blake Gopnik

The latest feed from my morning musings about art and objects at

Daily Pic: Thierry Jeannot, a Frenchman practicing in Mexico City, designed this deluxe Venetian-style chandelier -- but built it entirely of recycled plastic water bottles, collected and prepared by the poor. It's one of the highlights of an easily-overlooked show called "Rethinking Tradition: Contemporary Design From Mexico" on display in the lovely building of the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, designed in 1910 then redecorated with Mexican motifs over following decades.

The show struggles with what it might mean to promote a "national" design that doesn't trade in cliches of national identity. Some of its objects, including plastic housewares mimicking the "Chac-Mool" sculptures of the Maya and fine table linens built around traditional "rebozo" shawls, try to repurpose those cliches. They also risk falling into them. Maybe that's why an Italian-inspired chandelier, created by a Frenchman and crafted by the urban poor for use by the privileged classes, seems the way to go. It addresses conditions in Mexico, without resorting to traditional symbols of Mexicanness.

By Blake Gopnik  | September 28, 2010; 10:33 AM ET
Categories:  Blake Gopnik, Design  
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