Thursday, June 26, 2014

EXHIBITIONS: Designing Women in NYC

Designing Modern Women 1890-1990 

at Museum of Modern Art, New York

Through Oct. 1, 2014

Gesso by Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh,
more than a muse 

Presenting design objects by more than 60 women, this show highlights the work of Marianne Brandt, Eileen Gray, Lilly Reich, Eva Zeisel, Ray Eames, textile artist Anni Albers, ceramicist Lucy Rie, 1960s graphic designer Bonnie Maclean and other luminaries. Some of the artists are well known to design aficionados; many, though, might be unfamiliar to a general audience.The exhibition explores the connections between modern design, female emancipation, class stratification, and health reform, paying particular attention to everyday spaces and objects, such as kitchens and labor-saving appliances.

The first object on display might be a bit perplexing; it's a tall wooden side chair by famed designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, crafted in 1897. Why begin with a man’s work? Label-reading viewers will learn that from early in his career, Mackintosh collaborated with his wife, Margaret MacDonald, an acclaimed artist during her own lifetime. Mackintosh readily acknowledged Margaret as more than a muse, declaring: "I have talent; she has genius."

               Marianne Brandt teapot

Eileen Gray's elegant and utilitarian "1027 table"

                                                                                                                        Annie Albers textile design    

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

EXHIBITION: Jewish midcentury modern designers in San Francisco

Many creators of iconic midcentury Modernist designs were Jewish -- 
why, I couldn't tell you! San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum 
is currently honoring this phenomenon with a special exhibition that's on until October 6.

"Designing Home: Jews and Midcentury Modernism examines the contribution of Jewish designers, architects, patrons, and merchants in the creation of 
a distinctly modern American domestic landscape."
Link here for more info.

Henry Dreyfuss' Princess phone -- every 1950s teenage girl's dream.
(I begged my parents for one, and eventually got it. Yep, pink.)

       Above: George Nelson/Irving Harper Marshmallow sofa

Below: Alex Steinweiss, creator of the modern album cover, in his studio
See my "book note" posting of 12/15/13, for more about this giant of 20th C. graphic design

Ernest Sohn, "Esquire" coffee service

Exhibition poster

Monday, June 16, 2014

OBJECTS OF DESIRE: Yale Art Gallery's splendid collection

A weekend visit to the Yale Art Gallery -- originally to see a special exhibition of JFK photos -- revealed that their collection of 20th century decorative arts is quite stunning. Many of my favorite designers (Eva Zeisel, Henry Dreyfuss, Norman Bel Geddes, Ettore Sottsass) are represented here, and the imaginative influence of urban skylines and 1930s ocean liners is present throughout. The size of the exhibit is just right; there's plenty to see, but not so much that museum-i-tis sets in. Admission is free.

    Items for the perfect art deco/modern kitchen:
    From left: Corning glass "Top-of- Stoveware"
    Magnalite tea kettle, Dreyfuss herb chopper
    White pitcher by Eva Zeisel
    Limoges "Jiffy Ware" orange and white pitcher

Cityscape vases, glassware and 
Norman Bel Geddes' "Manhattan" cocktail ensemble 

Black vitrolite clock by Gilbert Rohde (1933) 
Blue earthenware chocolate pot by Ilonka  Karasz (1934)
          All photos by Michael Schonbach

Saturday, June 14, 2014

OBJECTS OF DESIRE: Space Age style for today

Biff's Coffee Shop in Oakland, CA 1963

LAX Theme Building 1961

Thursday, June 5, 2014

BOOK NOTE: "The Gee Whiz invention of the 1940's" ...

Who doesn't love the Polaroid camera?

Instant: The Story of Polaroid 
Princeton Architectural Press, hard cover, 192 pages, 100 color illustrations, $24.95

Merging user-friendly technology with pop culture, the Polaroid camera was a phenomenon of its time that retains iconic status today, sixty years after its debut in the marketplace. Christopher Bonanos’ bright and breezy book Instant chronicles the story of Edwin Land, a passionate and resolute visionary who created the first camera capable of producing prints in a minute, while delighted photographers and onlookers could watch images magically appear “out of a green-gray mist”. Land started Polaroid in a garage, in 1937; it eventually became a billion-dollar enterprise. Sound familiar? (In fact, Land was one of Apple founder Steve Jobs' first business and design heroes.) With its appeal to fine artists such as Ansel Adams and Andy Warhol, technology enthusiasts and doting parents, the “gee whiz invention of the 1940s” – despite now being supplanted by the digital camera – “still exerts a weird and bewitching pull.”