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Drawn out at MODA

Made in GA lacks smarts



That does it. I've officially run out of patience with the Museum of Design Atlanta. I stood by the zero-sum Cartoon Network show last year, and I defended this year's Eero Saarinen exhibit even though I knew immediately it was a flatliner. But Made in GA – the current exhibit that's supposed to showcase industrial design from Georgia – manages to be not only uninformative, but downright offensive.

An exhibition about the design of everyday products should overflow with "Wow, I never knew that!" moments. The meat of the exhibition (in Gallery 2) relies on maximum flash to deliver minimum content. Curator Carie Davis has isolated each Georgia-based company and provided a hodgepodge of concept sketches, product demo shots and technical renderings. Nothing's labeled or organized in any readable fashion. Clearly MODA thinks we're suckers for anything with a high-tech, cooler-than-cool vibe, even without proper context or explanation.

Take Thing Farm's design for a Luckie Food Lounge lamp: It's possible to pick out sketches for the lamp from among the clutter, but then ... is that a different lamp design below? Are those rejected designs? If so, why were they rejected? And what are all those unlabeled white plastic disks stuck to the wall? And all those metal clip-looking things? And why am I looking at any of it? It all looks very slick, but tells me precisely nothing.

Rather than heaping unlabeled drawings onto a wall, why not a study on how different colors affect product design; or how companies deal with handles and knobs (a major design challenge)? Or how different production materials affect the environment in different ways? Or, well, you get the picture.

MODA's become enamored of flashy presentation. If the museum doesn't shift its focus away from frothy product promotion, it risks becoming little more than a glorified showroom. The museum should instead get to the business of stimulating new thinking about and engagement with design.

If you insist on seeing Made in GA, do yourself a favor: Take in the big, bold quotations about design displayed on the walls in the otherwise empty Gallery 1 – they're genuinely thought-provoking and well-selected. Then leave. And don't look back.

Made in GA. Through Oct. 18. Free. Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. MODA, 285 Peachtree Center Ave. 404-979-6455. www.museumofdesign.org.

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