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Please Touch the Art: A + D Exhibit Ends Week-long Visit Friday

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By Carren Jao/Special to LAist

Perhaps it’s our early exposure to museums, but no matter how beautiful or engaging and exhibition is, visitors always hold back. I wouldn’t blame them; many larger museums often have guards posted by the door keenly watching your every move. If not, motion sensors are set to blare when anyone comes too close (I know, my friend has tripped many of such alarms already). But at the Architecture and Design Museum on Wilshire (A+D), touching and interacting with the exhibition is imperative.

Last week, A+D opened Design Preis Schweiz, a prestigious biennial competition meant to highlight the best in Swiss design. The exhibition will only last one week and will then move along to San Francisco and many other stops in its world tour.

Showcasing only a fraction of Design Preis Schweiz’s winning entries, the exhibition seems spare at first, but what it lacks in quantity it definitely makes up in quality. To fully appreciate this exhibition, prepare to reach out and touch the product. Only then would really see what the exhibition’s multi-lingual labels are really talking about.

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Case in point? Martin Leuthold’s fabrics.

Called “Secret Garden” for its digitally printed flower design, Leuthold’s fabric wafts airily over a mannequin aided by a fan. It looks like any other flower-printed scarf at that point, but grasp the cloth; you’ll see its texture is so light that holding the cloth is almost like holding a wisp of air. The cloth is an ultrafine polyester weave, coated with either aluminum, copper or bronze.

In another, Leuthold instills a sense of play in sequined cloth with “Pollock.” Made up of rows of sequins colored black on one side and white on the other, Leuthold dares the public to play artist by running their hands back and forth on the fabric, introducing either white or black lines into a dressy outfit. This textile designer’s innovative solution certainly addresses my wardrobe boredom.

A plea to touch and feel isn’t just confined to the fabrics. When you get to Sandra Kaufmann’s “Strada del Sole” glasses, you’ll see that the only way to see how flat sunglasses can get is by folding it yourself. With a promise never break even if you sit on it, “Strada del Sole” are steel-alloy glasses that fold right at temples. The temple switches between concave and convex, allowing you wear them with ease or snap them closed to fit snugly in your pocket.

Design Preis Schweiz is most certainly utilitarian but with a keen eye for beauty. Expect clean lines and minimalist design. Remember to read the labels since most of the time the ingenuity of an object isn’t readily apparent, but most of all, remember to touch the work.

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Design Preis Schweiz is on view at the A+D Museum only until Friday, February 4th