Innovative, research-based and exploratory, Chris Kabel’s work offers playful yet cerebral investigations of material and environment.
Chris Kabel (b. 1975) develops and produces bold, spirited work, which fuses extensive research and technological innovation with a playful approach to reality. A native of Bloemendaal, the Netherlands, he graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2001 and moved to Rotterdam in 2002, where he started his design practice. He works for and collaborates with design labels, cultural institutions and design galleries, including the Dutch Textile Museum in Tilburg, and is a professor at the Ecole Cantonale d’Art in Lausanne (ECAL), Switzerland. With a strong sense of compositional materials and their cultural connotations, Kabel designs use lace, metal, lighting technologies and experimental processes to develop pieces that thoughtfully interact with the expectations and moods of their users.
Kabel’s Mesh Chair, designed in 2005, combines upholstery and construction into one. The pattern pieces for the chair are cut from a sheet of expanded metal, formed over a simple mold and welded together along the seams. Its curved surfaces and welding lines make a strong construction. Available in a selection of RAL colors, its structure resembles something digitally generated, rather than a stable, three-dimensional object. The designer’s Faux series, meanwhile, consists of a collection of small boxes which, in surface and shape, play an intricate and deceitful game. Here, photographs by photographer Mathijs Labadie are wrapped around boxes by means of water transfer printing. The shapes of the boxes counter or coincide with the photos; shiny spots and textures appear to be prints, and shadows and reflections are misaligned with shape. Upon close inspection, the material proves to be nothing more than thin layers of water transfer film. The Faux series is a research project into the finish of objects and is inspired by current developments in photography, where traditional photographic print is becoming more and more object-like and three-dimensional. It is one of the outcomes of a Material Fellowship awarded to the designer by the New Institute (Het Nieuwe Instituut), Rotterdam, in 2015.
This keen sense of play is also observed in Kabel’s Multicoloured Office Party Light. Conscious of the uncomfortable ambiguity of office parties, generated by an uneasy combination of piles of undone work, bleak lights and numerous drinks, Kabel’s design helps to more effectively transform a work environment for such occasions. When pulled all the way over a conventional office light, this bright, multi-colored garland transforms the harsh neon into a merry mix of colors, jovially transforming the atmosphere of the space. Its current edition is a follow-up of a 2013 installation for Portikus, an institution for contemporary art based in Frankfurt am Main.
Kabel is the recipient of a variety of awards and fellowships, including the Red Dot Design Award in 2006, and the Dutch Material Prize in 2009. In 2007, his Mesh Chair received the Wallpaper Design Award, and it has been displayed in the MoMA Architecture and Design Collection, New York; the Fondation Nationale d’Art Contemporain, Paris, and the Chair Collection of the Polytechnical University of Delft in the Netherlands. Kabel’s work is also included in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and the Hangaram Design Museum, Seoul, among others.