Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Memorial to Designer Tobias Wong

JUNE 5, 2011

Wong's Ballistic Roses 

The controversial and brilliant young designer, Tobias Wong created works that challenged and stimulated the minds of those who interacted with it.  The pieces have a beauty in their direct simplicity, in their twisting of the expected into something provocative, in the messages and  meanings he conveyed by his choice of materials and context. 
Designer Tobias Wong

A perfect example of his elegant wit and vision lies in the design below; an engagement ring with the pointed end of the diamond facing outwards.  In twisting our expectations in such a simple, yet transformative manner, Wong expressed volumes of meaning with a simple dot of punctuation. 
Killer Diamond Engagement Ring by Tobias Wong
In Bullet Poof Quilted Duvet (below) Wong's use of ballistic fabric in an otherwise normal bed covering allows us to re-evaluate our ideas of physical and emotional comfort and protection.  Similarly, the material transforms the message in Wong's Kevlar roses (shown at the top of this post.)

Tobias Wong, Bulletproof Quilted Duvet, 2004, ballistic nylon, cotton, and cotton flannel; Collection SFMOMA, gift of Josee Lepage; © Estate of Tobias Wong; photo: courtesy SFMOMA
Context was manipulated brilliantly by Wong as well.  In "Indulgences", a project he collaborated on with Ken Courtney, founder of Ju$t Another Rich Kid the iconic items below were cast in gold.  Without context, the items below are just golden replicas of mass produced items from the 1960-1980's.  Factoring in their cultural relevance reveals complex and potent messages.    
When Wong took his own life in 2010, the world lost a wonderfully creative mind and a future of clever and compelling work.  Using one die for each day of Tobias Wong's life to create a portrait of the designer, Frederick McSwain used Wong's own kind of clever manipulation of meaning, materials, and context to make a meaningful, moving and thought provoking memorial for his friend.  

"DIE" Frederick McSwain Installation Time Lapse from stephen dirkes on Vimeo.
A time lapse film by Stephen Dirkes for core77 of Frederick McSwain's, "DIE" installation at Gallery R Pure "Broken Off Broken Off" group show in memorium to Tobias Wong for NY Design Week 2011. Music by Twi the Humble Feather.

obscure object films
NYC 2011
The finished portrait
A closer look at the dice making up Wong's portrait
For more on Tobias Wong, visit:

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