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Rosenthal Bag

Published April 24, 2020

Tapio Wirkkala (Finnish), Rosenthal Bag (20th c). Porcelain. FSU MoFA 2008.22

Created by Finnish artist Tapoi Wirkkala, Rosenthal Bag is a porcelain vase that explores the dimensions of form by drawing inspiration from an ordinary object, a paper bag. Recreating the details of curves and folds of the bag in a more precious medium subverts the expectations of the viewer. The sculpture seems to be frozen in action of being compressed or in the middle of being crumpled for disposal. The artist transforms this ordinary scene in the porcelain medium to allow the viewer to analyze the implications and act of throwing something away. An object and process that we forget almost immediately after disposal, is now on showcase for the viewer to examine through a new lense. Rosenthal Bag is a part of a series that Wirkkala created for the German company Rosenthal, hence the name of the sculpture, as it was produced during his time at the company. The series name was entitled “Do Not Litter,” which encompassed everyday objects, such as paper bags or soda cans, to resemble the simple, consumable objects that people use and recast them in a new light. Wirkkala was known for utilizing a wide range of mediums, from wood, ceramics, and glass to create his designs that blended a modern style with a playful attitude.

This juxtaposition showcases the inner beauty of ordinary objects and how perception can change a material from ordinary to art. Wirkkala created these objects in mass at the Rosenthal studio, some are still available for sale .Creating a large cache of objects that reflect the mass consumption of society may have been the point to Wirkkala’s work. As we face the global problem of an ever abundant trash encroaching on nature and our daily lives, this work can offer a new opportunity to examine what we define as trash in this world and the processes that inform this decision. As new renewable sources and technologie become commonplace, the paper bag and aluminum soda may become a relic of the past, in which we can discover the hidden beauty encased in them.

Exhibition Notes:
When approached from the entry of the gallery, Rosenthal Bag was placed atop the third pedestal on the right-hand wall within the space. Exhibited at the same height as its surrounding pedestals, this piece would have Untitled at its left and Inner Strength at its right. These works are both larger, rougher, and darker than Rosenthal Bag, providing a foil for the work’s texture and form. As a small, pure white object, its relation to the surrounding white walls and pedestals was taken into consideration. It’s placement in front of the gallery’s only window wall provides the viewer with a more clearly defined perspective on the work as a whole. Additionally, the vibrancy of Places Remembered would have presented a direct contrast to the porcelain and been situated directly across from it.