Cover image of the review

Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design

24 Nov 2018
20 Nov - 3 Mar 2019

Distinctions between art and design are notoriously difficult to make; the imperative of functionality is far from unique to design while a concern with communicative strategies and the formal elements of design (line, colour, volume and so on) are often common to both. The popularity of those umbrella terms ‘creatives’ and ‘the creative industries’ in present day usage reflects the fact that many artists are regularly engaged in design work and many designers exhibit their work in fine art contexts, blurring nominal divides. Arguably this has always been the case (just think of Leonardo deftly switching back and forth between blueprints and panel paintings), yet historically we have tended to pigeonhole our creatives into one or other category.

Clement Meadmore has long been anointed an artist, despite working for over a decade as a high profile industrial designer. In part this is surely because his reputation as a sculptor eclipsed his earlier reputation as a designer; by the early 1960s he was widely regarded one of Australia’s top two or three sculptors (along with Robert Klippel and Norma Redpath) and after moving permanently to New York, in 1963, he regularly attracted commissions for prominent public sculptures. Yet this classification as an artist rather than artist-designer must also be considered a product of Meadmore’s own making. In two mid-career interviews he gave Hazel de Burgh (in 1962 and 1970) he foreclosed discussion of his early design career. Similarly, Eric Gibson’s monograph on Meadmore of 1994 dismissed his industrial design work in a line or two without any mention of individual works.

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