Dialogue on the Wall
Form + Content Gallery
Aug. 16–Sept. 15

When Minnesota architect Jay H. Isenberg was planning the architectural installation “Dialogue on the Wall,” the Palestinian crisis loomed as a two-sided affair—Israel on one side, Palestine on the other. Isenberg conceived the show as a 10-foot tall concrete wall, and he hoped through artistic narrative, multimedia productions, and performance art (accomplished with help from his artist wife, Lynda Monick-Isenberg), to come to terms with the powerful nature of a wall as divisive force. The concept was relatively simple for representing a region so inflamed: The gallery would be split into two spaces, with the voice and story of each group on its own side.

Then a clash among Palestinians in Gaza added a third dynamic. Isenberg shifted from symmetry and the “equal presentation of views” to an asymmetrical setup in which the wall becomes a dividing line between cacophony and contemplation, regardless of one's point of view. “Design always changes,” he says. “It becomes a collage of both sides intermingled.”

Barriers, whether built by the Chinese, dedicated to the emperor Hadrian, or considered to block illegal immigration in the American Southwest, are paradoxical, Isenberg argues. They create likable serpentine patterns. “Visually, if you pull out the political connotation, these things in the landscape are quite beautiful,” he says. www.formandcontent.org

California Design Biennial
Pasadena Museum of California Art
Aug. 18–Sept. 30

Any two years in the life of the California design community is likely to deliver an avalanche of products and concepts. In the seminal years of midcentury modernism, Case Study houses and the assembly-line experiments of Charles and Ray Eames put the Golden State at the cutting edge of innovation. Today, the design community reflects the altered passions of a consumer society: Apple's iPod culture; cool cars from the brains at Art Center; furniture and jewelry by Frank Gehry; and functional works of art like the Leaf desktop lamp (left) and the soon-to-launch $100 laptop computer from Yves Behar at fuseproject.

For the third time, the Pasadena Museum of California Art is unveiling a juried look at the newest and best California designs. Organizers describe the exhibition as an effort to honor “the creative energy” of the region. Five categories—fashion, transportation, consumer products, furniture, and graphics—show that the design surf's up. Perhaps by 2009 the jury will find a way to open a window on California architecture. www.pmcaonline.org