Robert Glasper: Ill-Conceived Gift
A work of mostly ill-conceived art on the base level of the turnip bowl.
The House of Gucci reads as a collection of assorted pieces, beginning with its astounding, nicely assembled porcelain cup and saucer set. The problem with Glasper’s designs, though, is that at least two of them are highly problematic. The two pieces fail to thrive because Glasper has designed them to fail.
Two of the most common selections, the Rose macaron and the Dragonfly cup, are horrible: These decorative headpieces share material, and both are 10-tiered cases with eyes and ears. Like the tiny crows dancing on the glass egg plate, these look unreal and hollow. Make no mistake, they are. Worse, they are overambitious attempts at depicting either a very popular or a very deviant character from Gucci’s far-flung design universe. The grand slam, the gift, goes to the Dragonfly, the 10-tiered bird that glows a shiny copper. It is a disaster.
The Green apple pot stirrer attempts to replicate the way nature makes loose-leaf tea, but it is almost comically miscast: It is oblong, and it is depicted using elements like thick petals, a lotus flower, and thorns. The tale goes that green apples are said to have aphrodisiac qualities. Call me the least imaginative tea sipper in the world, but I doubt if the ancient Chinese ever wore those Thorns. Most tea is not crafted with those cast objects. And so even on its own, this is a failure.
Here’s where Glasper is almost fun. Take the Rose dell’Uomo and the Pink Youthra. These are not bad pieces. In fact, I would argue that their original intent, when introduced by Glasper, was to parody the sort of design aesthetic that has fallen out of fashion.
There is nothing wrong with that. The Lady Pink Youthra is the pop of color that Glasper describes as “pruning at a keener speed.” It has a frilly, Barbie-girl design, and the peonies on its stem are shaped like to-die-for pink zigzags. This may not sound like much, but to a set of aesthetes, for whom the trompe l’oeil art of the Lady Pink Youthra would have been highly endearing, it was wonderful. I’m not saying this was a silver bullet, but it was pretty close.
But Glasper, a winning jazz pianist and producer, has shown a capacity for making popular design elements look as if they came from another era. The color trend is nearly five years old now. A five-year-old boy knows he is not supposed to get pink every day. These two pieces are proof that he doesn’t understand, because they wear pink almost every day. The Rose dell’Uomo, however, is presented as a once-purer construct. We see it anew, picked by one, in the show. Is it a good idea to make a set of chunky lemon drops pink every day, with every other item in the collection pink? I don’t think so. It is a cheap gimmick, and an embarrassing one. Glasper failed when he designed these pieces to say something about fashion. He failed when he tried to make it a marketing tool. He failed to challenge something with his designs. Instead he decided that the aim was to be foolish, and nothing more.
The other piece that Glasper developed after the Lady Pink Youthra was similarly egregious. This was the tennis racket-sized bird, accompanied by two simple, fluttering wings. It looks like the kind of thing you might buy at a Walmart store in which there is also a Barbies’ range of clothes. Yet that is actually not a bad thing. Apart from the typically and often inferior quality of cheap Walmart garb, why would you like that item in particular? The real problem was that Glasper wanted the bird to look like a real bird, and so he styled it as if it were a plastic version.
I am not saying that Glasper had no chance to be creative and outthink himself. I am saying that he is an artist, and as such he could only go as far as his skills will allow him to go.
Inevitably, though, Glasper’s nature comes through. I have seen a million designers create cutesy boxes for vinyl records, but I have never seen one with cutesy flowers in them. Nor have I seen the one with the bird in the sky. The objects, with their chunky flowers, are