Kate Rohde | Ornament Crimes

10 August – 3 September 2016


Kate Rohde’s collection of zoomorphic sculptures create a fantastical environment; hyperactive and hyper-detailed. Animals and plants become spectacles of human desire as mankind trumps nature in an immersive space filled with cast-resin furniture, elaborate vessels, mounted heads and psychedelic wall treatment.


The embellishments imitate nature, yet there is something decisively unnatural about them. Horns sprout from chairs, cat heads are gruesomely fused into one and flowers are twisted into handles. Rabbits appear as proud, half bodies. ‘I’m compelled and repulsed in equal measure’ states Rohde. Her long standing fascination with zoological drawings and taxidermy speaks to a constant exploration of how nature is subservient to the desires of mankind.


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Ornament Crimes takes its name from Austrian architect Adolf Loo’s influential 1913 essay. Written at the beginning of the modernist era, Ornament and Crime attests to the unnecessary labour and degenerative effect ornament had on society. It is those embellishments, however, that Rohde champions with extravagantly styled sculptures.


Inspiration is drawn from the legacy of Baroque and Rococo art and design, a lavish aesthetic now near-abandoned in the name of good taste. Belonging to a former aristocratic order, art and design during these periods of embellishment signified decadence in excess. Rohde has long been attracted to excess and the spectacular, and Ornament Crimes is unashamedly decorative with its hyper-colour, poised animal features, and entwined flowers and vines. The exhibition is labour intensive, each editioned work handmade and highly detailed.


A celebration of ornamentation, Rohde’s work is also a vehicle for cultural and social critique. Referencing aristocratic trophies and contextualising these into a contemporary setting bring with it a social and economic concern, suggesting Rohde’s elaborate forms reflect this prevalence. It is in this vein that Rohde identifies the contemporary relevance of Adolf Loo’s Ornament and Crime, sharing some of the essay’s concerns.


Kate Rohde’s exuberant reimagining of late classical ornamentation is met with direct opposition in her extensive use of modern materials such as resins, fluorescent dyes and synthetic fibres. The collusion of materials, form and function places her work firmly in New Materialism. Working with resins of a large scale allows Rohde the flexibility to trial and create.  She triumphs accessibility in modern art and design, her use of moulds allowing her to create multiple editions of works that are still uniquely handmade through sanding down and polishing. Rohde’s materials are masterfully combined in kaleidoscopic fashion, creating vivid and otherworldly environments which completely immerses the viewer.