by Tisha Leung
Beginning next month, Material ConneXion will present the first retrospective of work by self-trained designer and one-man operation Neal Small at their New York showroom. In the mid-'60s the New York designer came on the furniture scene as a young designer with a transformational idea for furniture—acrylic plastic. Better known as Plexiglas, Lucite and Acrylite, Small turned out innovative furniture, lighting and sculpture in a largely unexplored industrial material that was at the time mainly used for displays.
The designer once likened âold-fashioned furnitureâ to âa dead whale in the living room,â helping to ignite a craze for plastic furniture that lives on today. Injecting his wit and humor, he harnessed the materialâs best characteristics in his plastic-shaping technique –bending, folding and molding all from one piece. Some of Smallâs most well-known pieces will be on exhibit including his red acrylic splay-footed Floor Lamp (1966) and white spherical Area Lamp (1968, pictured below right) both from MoMAâs permanent collection. Also showcasing his ingenuity are his simple and efficient cocktail and end-table designs formed from single sheets of translucent acrylic.
Smallâs pieces are on permanent display in prominent institutions including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Smithsonian, and the Walker Art Center. Material ConneXion is a global platform advancing new design solutions through the use of innovative materials.