Saturday, August 8, 2015

EXHIBITION: Great women of 20th century design at MOMA

I've been thinking a lot about the fascinating MOMA/NY exhibition I saw almost exactly a year ago: "Designing Modern Women 1890-1990". I was quite smitten with nearly everything I saw, and thought it would be fun to repost about it. Hurray for unsung design hero Margaret Knight, who came up with the idea of the flat-bottomed paper bag! 

Other special favorites were Art Nouveau designs by Margaret MacDonald (more on her later), silver work by Marianne Brandt, Eva Zeisel's elegant white ceramic bowls and whimsical tableware, Greta Von Nessen's "Anywhere Lamp", Eileen Gray's high gloss black lacquer room screen and round occasional table, and the whole section called "Kitchen Transformation". The latter demonstrated how sensible it was that women -- who were always concerned with esthetics, efficiency, and hygiene -- would rise to the forefront of design in this area. Charlotte Perriand's pod-like Unité kitchen is a standout in this department.


            Marianne Brandt coffee and tea service

   
     Eileen Gray screen and famed E1027 table


Von Nessen's "Anywhere Lamp"


Eva Zeisel's "Shmoo" salt & pepper shaker


A slightly puzzling feature of the show was its first item, a chair 
by iconic British designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
CRM was the husband of artist Margaret Macdonald; 
the two collaborated closely through the course of their careers.
He famously said of her "I have talent, but she has genius."


Margaret MacDonald's gesso
"The White Rose and the Red"

(To read an excellent BBC article entitled
Margaret MacDonald: the talented other half 
of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, link here .)



       Unité kitchen,  designed by Charlotte Perriand           Unité kitchen seen from the living room
with Le Corbusier 


A group of four humble paper bags was included in the show, because ...


... the flat-bottomed paper bag was Invented in 1871 by Margaret Knight,
one of the first female inventors ever to receive a US patent.
It replaced the flimsy envelope-style type and 
revolutionized grocery shopping forever. 


I was baffled by the omission of Art Deco ceramics maven Clarice Cliff. A phenomenally successful designer, entrepreneur and all around Zelda-esque bon vivant, she was best known for her Bizarreware line. Here's a touch of Clarice for you.


    


See my article "Clarice Cliff: Jazz Hot Baby
of Art Deco Ceramics" (Modernism magazine, Spring 2007)
 here.

~ oOo ~












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