16 Mind-Blowing Designs That Digital Fabrication Made Possible

3-D printed dresses, Laser Vapor Talon shoes, and a Twisted Dump Truck: Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital, a new exhibit at MAD, presents the work of 80 cutting-edge digital-dependent artists.

Artists’ mediums have evolved dramatically since the days of ye olde paint brushes and pencils. It won’t before long before art school curricula include 3-D printing, CNC machining, and digital knitting (grandmas of the future unite). Until now, no major museum exhibit has focused exclusively on the many areas of 21st-century creativity made possible by the advanced methods of computer-assisted production known as digital fabrication.


Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital opens today at the Museum of Art and Design in New York. (Apparently we’re already post-digital — if you haven’t caught up with digital yet, just skip it.) Organized by MAD curator Ron Labaco, this ambitious exhibition presents the work of more than 80 international designers and artists, including Ron Arad, Barry X Ball, Zaha Hadid, Stephen Jones, Anish Kapoor, Allan McCollum, Marc Newson, and Roxy Paine. This cream of the futuristic crop challenges our assumptions about what’s possible in art, design, architecture, fashion, sculpture, furniture, and transportation, and anticipates the next chapter.

Ron Arad, Oh Void 1, 2006 Credit: Erik and Petra Hesmerg

On view is Softkill Design’s prototype for a 3-D printed house, which, the designers say, is “not that far off” from becoming a reality. Zaha Hadid’s “liquid glacial smoke coffee table” mimics cloudless water, adorned with frozen whirlpools connected to icicle-like legs. It appears on the verge of dissolving into a puddle at any second. Nike’s Vapor Laser Talon cleat sounds like it’s from Star Wars and might as well be; it’s made by Selective Laser Sintering technology, uses the sport’s first 3-D printed plate–the bottom part of the shoe that includes the cleats–and is designed to make you run like a velociraptor. Lucas Maassen and Unfold’s wiggly Brainwave Sofa, modeled after a brain scan, fuses modern neuroscience breakthroughs with digital fabrication. Other highlights include Chuck Close’s digitally woven self-portraits; Wim Delvoye’s gothic-cathedral inspired Twisted Dump Truck; and Iris Van Herpen’s 3-D printed “digital escapism” dresses.

The exhibition, on view until July 6, 2014, is supplemented by in-gallery interactive stations, workshops, lectures, and a series of master classes featuring the exhibited designers and technology.

About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.