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Industrial Tenderness: Mexican-American Ornamentation as a Pluriversal Design Practice

3   Sculptural Chairs
3   Abstract Pattern Curtains
3   Tonal Pedestals
1    Silkscreen Printed Drywall Floor

Each chair is based on the visual language of 3 Mexican-American experiences, those being childhood birthdays, agricultural labor, and vigils. Each vignette is focused on different levels of audience specificity and varying intensities of abstraction.

Plywood, Drywall, Pine, Cotton

Silkscreen Printing, Spray Painting, House Paint, Impasto Painting, Ink Dyeing, and Digital Fabric Printing.

Industrial Tenderness surveys the relationship between visual language, cultural expression, and diasporic practices through the design of functional sculptures. These designed objects seek to communicate cultural legibility, or intuitive cultural belonging, to Mexican-American peoples by challenging legacy notions of design language. Through a proposed design language framework and designed objects, Industrial Tenderness seeks to affirm a pluriversal practice of industrial design.
Legacy industrial design confines design language to a heavily prescriptive canon, resulting in a stark monocultural language that is unrepresentative of perspectives outside of a legacy dominant white eurocentricity founded in thinking from the Bauhaus and Ulm schools. Through ethnographic research, studio talks, introspection, and making, the pluriversal design practice of ornamentation has been identified as a way of cultural signaling and challenging design homogeneity. These learnings have informed functional sculptures that blend American industrial materials and form languages with Mexican ornamentation practices. This blending of visual languages seeks to affirm the liminal hybridity of Mexican-American material culture as notably distinct.

This research uses terms and thinking from the field of linguistics to construct a more apt framework for a cultural design lexicon. This framework considers how semiotics, semantics, syntax, and localization can offer a richer approach to considering design language and cultural contexts. This body of research is laid out into sections titled Expression, Abstraction, Canvases, Ornamentation, and Unspecific Memories, which explores the design theory and processes that informed the design of the functional sculptures. It is through this publication and set of designed objects that Industrial Tenderness affirms the strength of Mexican-American pluriversal design language in opposition to assimilation.

Niñez Chair:
This chair was designed as an abstraction of several American chair designs, notably Frank Lloyd Wright’s Arm Chair designed for the Francis W. Little home, Charles Pollock’s 657 chair for Knoll, and Florence Knoll’s Lounge Chair. These forms make up an archetypical American chair, serving as a referential foundation to add ornamentation on. Sticking to construction materials reflective of the American built environment, the chair canvas is constructed of birch plywood and covered in white primer with the exception of the edge grain.
The ornamentation for this chair is directly influenced by the cake frosting in the above picture with its rhythmic floral forms, pastel gradients, and soft cream textures. Using a style of impasto painting heavily inspired by the work of Yvette Mayorga, the frosting is made up of heavy body acrylic paint and extra heavy gel medium.

Pilas Chair:
This chair is designed in reference to Donald Judd’s 84 Chair series which themselves are reduced forms of other iconic chairs such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Side Chair. Judd’s own minimalist practice is an expression of the cultural design archetypes that influenced him, which is a language I view as a white American expression of what the foundational chair is. The chair is constructed from birch plywood and painted with a base of house paint.

This chair, being focused on Mexican-American labor, references the aesthetics of la pizca, or fruit picking. The ornamentation here is not as literal as cake decoration. The ornamentation here is the imprint that agricultural labor has on the laborer, in this case being the deep berry juice stains in the skin that come from working in berry fields. Using silkscreen printing methods and hand-mixed specialty inks, these stains are present through overlaid dimensional graphics in patterns referencing filled berry pallets and crop fields.

Flores Chair:
This final chair takes it form reference again from Donald Judd’s 84 chair, but equally from George Nelson’s Platform Bench and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Side Chair. It is constructed from strips of birch plywood that are coated in white primer. The strips or slats carry a resemblance of the visual language imposed by the Trump administration in their demonization of immigrants at the US-Mexico border. Prior to glue up and construction, the strips are arranged and spray painted in a mural-like style. This glue up process is reminiscent of weaving in that interlocking pieces of wood nestle within each other to provide strength and size. 
The spray paint ornamentation is in reference to memoriam murals that honor loved ones that have passed. The colors and abstracted form borrow from the Mexican icon La Virgen de Guadalupe, who is heavily present in the visual language of mourning and an icon adopted from Catholicism. The colors are also found in flowers, votive candles, cards, and altars.