Designers, not unlike artists, have a profound interest in the way people live with objects. By definition, they make work that is first and foremost utilitarian, an active part of one's day-to-day. Artist and designer Emmett Moore isn't just interested in the human body's relationship to the various furniture pieces he creates; he also aims to blur the lines between his two worlds. His new solo show, "Human Factory," at bassX, located at the Miami Beach Regional Library, goes a long way to accomplish that goal.
"There's a lot of talk about the differences between art and design, but that's inherently problematic," Moore explained to New Times at the show's opening. "There is a difference between the two, but I've always found the overlap between them to be the most interesting aspect."
Playing off that interaction, Moore's exhibit was directly inspired by Julius Panero's book Human Dimensions and Interior Space. Long regarded as the Holy Grail of interior design, it's based on the concept that designing objects for the average human inherently writes off half the population. Instead, Panero suggested that each object should be designed for both the 95th and 5th percentiles. For example, a mirror should be made to function for people who are in the 5th and the 95th height percentiles.
All the pieces on display were intended to take those principles into account. Room partitions, shelving units, and desks were designed to Panero's specification. Moore even took the care to highlight the different measurements in each piece so the viewer can see where they fall within the spectrum of variability.
Don't be fooled by all the arithmetic, the pieces are more than just functional objects. The designer's quest to discover the ideal proportions recalls the struggle by artists from ancient Greece, or their imitators during the Renaissance. Both delved into mathematics to find the perfect ratios to represent the human body in their sculptures and paintings. Moore is attempting to do the same, but from a distinctly modern perspective.
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"Emmett is one of the few young artists in Miami and in South Florida exploring contemporary design," said Bass Museum Curator Jose Diaz. "The works appear as sculpture but they are also utilitarian. Very few Miami artists are doing what he does. Keep an eye on him."
Moore's work seamlessly weaves through two adjoining — yet distinct — professions. His pieces are both functional and conceptual, defying categorization. At times they are filled with irony, pathos, or meant to point out overlooked contradictions and absurdities. It's no wonder his work has become a symbol of Miami's burgeoning art and design culture.
Through May 29 at bassX, inside Miami Beach Regional Library. For hours of operation, call 786-436-8133.