Art objects and utilitarian objects

Today’s Zippy, on the relationship between the two:


In brief: utilitarian objects can be aesthetically pleasing — can be seen as art objects — without any conscious intention on the part of the designer; or they can be created with an eye towards pleasing design; or they can be self-consciously designed as objects to view (because they are pleasing or playful or both) as well as objects to use. Above: type 1.

The lines between the three types are not easily discerned. In my  7/7/12 posting “Straight arrow”, I look at one fairly clear example of type 1: parking lot arrows considered as art objects. But I also mention a type 2 example:

One class of artifacts that has attracted the rapt attention of photographers (and artists): manhole covers. There are lots of links on the sites Manhole Covers as Works of Art and Drainspotting, and several books

Then there are urinals, where examples of all three types are easily found. On this blog:

on 1/8/12, “From the urinal desk at AZBlog”

on 10/12/15, “Our playful artists”

on 1/1/16, “On urinals and the conventions of the men’s room”

on 1/2/16, “The news for urinals”

on 1/3/16,  “Misogynistic urinals and sinks”

on 12/2/16,  “Robert Arneson”

A class of artifacts with a fair number of type 2 examples: storm sewer grates. Conventional grates are straightforward and pleasing enough to the eye, but some show a designer’s eye:



And a few show conscious attention to artistic values; consider these Ottawa storm sewer grates, incorporating a fish design:


And then there are rainspouts / rain spourts / downspouts. Again, conventional downspouts are straightforward and pleasing to the eye, but on the crude side. However, nozzles and extensions provide opportunities for pleasing design, as here:

(#5) Downspout nozzles

And for conspicuously artful or playful creations: gargoyles, of course, but also (among other things) attractive fish and entertaining human figues:

(#6) A fish extension

(#7) A urinating extension

One Response to “Art objects and utilitarian objects”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    Door knockers in Italian cities often double as art objects.

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