Curious ordinary objects shine in David Usborne's Objectivity at Harewood House

By Richard Moss | 15 February 2013

Exhibition preview: David Usborne's Objectivity, Harewood House, Leeds, February 16 - September 1 2013

a photo of a rotor blade
Copyright David Usbourne
Visitors to David Usborne’s website are warned that “finding beauty in anonymous tools that were never intended to be beautiful may undermine their faith in the canonical masterpieces of Modernism.”

His current exhibition of of weird, wonderful and often baffling objects may counter this argument by serving up an array of beautiful things that celebrate the diversity, form, engineering - and art - of anonymous objects.

Usbourne has been an inveterate collector of objects since his 1940s childhood in New Mexico, where he used to collect arrowheads and mineral samples. He now uses his collection to introduce pupils to the problems of design.

Describing their appeal as lying in the fact “that they couldn’t care less”, Usbourne’s selection of strange utilitarian "accidental masterpieces" do, however, exercise a strange artistic - even mysterious - pull.

The objects can be seen in the Servants’ Hall, a space that provides an apt backdrop as Harewood’s original hub of domestic activity.

Many of these curious objects may suggest a particular function but, rather like some works of art, their purpose or meaning remains elusive and obscure.

This may result in a heightened sense of uncertainty, but anyone with a love of objects and the variety of ways in which people use and collect things to make meaning in their lives will find much to fascinate them here.

a photo of a series of objects included a bent fish slice, wooden plug and garden fork
Copyright David Usbourne.

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