Thursday, June 23, 2016

EXHIBITIONS: "Energizing the Everyday" through jazzy design, at NYC's Cooper Hewitt


The marriage of form and function is at the heart of modern design, as the Cooper Hewitt's current NYC exhibition Energizing the Everyday: the George R. Kravis II collection abundantly demonstrates. This show, however, takes this concept to an even higher plane, incorporating a recognition that good design can elevate our spirits, bringing whimsy and grace into our most mundane daily activities.

 Patriot radio, 1940, Norman Bel Geddes 
This is considered to be one of Bel Geddes' most iconic designs.

"With its red, white, and blue palette, and a rectangular grill reminiscent of the stripes 
in the American flag, it expressed faith in American technology, industry, and 
culture at a time when the country was making efforts to recover from the 
Great Depression, while also coping with anxiety about the intensifying war in Europe."  
... Curator's note                     

Former broadcasting executive, philanthropist and modern design aficionado George Kravis began collecting when he was ten, and "took on a Bakelite RCA record changer." Since then his collection has grown exponentially, now comprising furniture, tableware, textiles, industrial products, clocks and other random items that strike his fancy (lawnmowers, stereo equipment and toasters to name but a few.) Kravis finds joy in looking at and tinkering with his vast collection; its monetary value does not concern him. He recently gifted much of it to the Cooper Hewitt Museum in NYC, and has also established the Kravis Design Center in his hometown of Tulsa, OK, to further his educational mission.


A few items from the exhibition that caught my eye: 

Chromium-plated Manhattan cocktail service, 1934, Norman Bel Geddes,
 The Manhattan skyline served as muse to many designers
of the 1930s, with its outline evoking the modernity of the metropolis.

"The stepped-form of the tray mimics the setback design of skyscrapers 
from the 1920s and 1930s, which was due to the 1916 setback ordinance, 
which regulated the height of the New York buildings at the street line."
... Curator's note                    

 Vanity, 1939, Gilbert Rohde

"The vanity was the most specifically gendered object in the modern bedroom. Design historian Kristina Wilson has written on how every part of the vanity was about display: display of the tools for beauty, display of the woman in the mirror, making herself up for display before others. As a flamboyant piece of furniture, the vanity itself was always on display within the interior decoration scheme."

Above: Z Clock, 1933, Gilbert Rohde
This favorite, produced by the Herman Miller Company,
was designed for the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.

Right: RCA Victor Special Phonograph, 1935, John Vassos.
Aluminum, chromium-plated steel,
molded plastic, felt, leather, velvet

As a veteran of the broadcasting industry, Kravis is particularly drawn to the design elements of its technology. He is also a vinyl records enthusiast (like my husband!)

 Skyway Salt and Pepper Shakers, 1939, Russel Wright
These stainless steel & bakelite beauties are labor-saving 
(no polishing required) and whimsically modern.


For more information about this Cooper Hewitt exhibition, link here.
 The show runs through March 12, 2017.

~ Originally posted May 10, 2016 ~

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