Welcome to Mad for Mod!


Welcome to Mad for Mod!

My blog highlights trends in jazzy modernist design -- from soap to sofas, buildings to bags -- and is my way of staying in touch with the worldwide community of 20th century design aficionados. Notes about museum exhibitions and design festivals, book reviews, remembrances, features on objects of desire, and occasional oddball items will appear on no set schedule. Please visit often to find new surprises!
Enjoy  ~ ° ° ° ~  Judy

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

EXHIBITIONS: Eloise takes NYC by storm, again

Illustration by Hilary Knight for the 
Plaza Hotel’s children’s menu (1956-1957)

The NY Historical Society is currently hosting a delightful exhibition of drawings
 from Kay Thomson's Eloise books, following its successful run at the Eric Carle Picture Book Museum in Amherst, MA. Hillary Knight's singular illustrations
for the books continue to capture people's hearts, as he follows the
adventures of everyone's favorite precocious, over-entitled, 
under-disciplined 6-year-old Manhattanite.

Eloise looks at a museum wall and sees only ... herself.
That's our girl! 

 Hilary Knight (b. 1926) Unused cover sketch, 1954
(Courtesy NY Historical Society)

 Moxie-filled Eloise lives with her nearly
invisible nanny at the Plaza Hotel. She loves to create mayhem, order beer 
from room service, slump in oversized, Baroque chairs in the lobby, and take
tea in the sumptuous Palm Court at four o'clock.

Teatime at the Plaza's Palm Court

Special menu for The Children's Eloise Tea includes
• Sandwiches and savories, as well as scrumptious: 

• Warm Scones with Double Devonshire Cream, Lemon Curd and Preserves
• Strawberry Rice Krispy Treat
• Raspberry and Milk Chocolate Éclair
• Seasonal Fruit Tart
• Dulce De Leche Cup Cake
• Raspberry Vanilla Cotton Candy (two tones)
• Graham Cracker Lemon Blueberry S’more

 A typical afternoon at the Plaza
"There is a lobby which is enormously large
and has marble pillars and ladies in it ..."

Unpublished drawing by Hilary Knight for Eloise 
[Simon & Schuster, 1955]

"This first major retrospective of Knight’s work showcases more than 90 objects, from numerous Eloise illustrations to art from the rest of his prodigious career as a children’s book artist, poster designer, magazine illustrator, and painter. Among the many treasures on display are Knight’s 1954 trial drawings for the first Eloise book, two Eloise in Paris sketchbooks, a magnificent suite of final art from Eloise In Moscow, and the 1993 Eloise watercolor for New York Is Book Country. There’s a kicker, too: for the first time since its infamous disappearance from the Plaza Hotel in 1960, Knight’s original 1956 Eloise portrait is also on view.” 

                           — Curatorial note from the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

To listen to a National Public Radio story about the exhibition, 
as well as the mysterious disappearance of the famed Eloise painting 
from The Plaza's lobby, link here.

 Some extras:
Above: Eloise emergency care kit in a hatbox
Comes complete with "vintage Jujubees" (one would hate to be 
without Jujubees in an emergency) and a little box of Pepsodent toothpaste

Below: the mid-Mod "Eloise chair"
No slumping here, young lady!

Eloise at the Museum continues in NYC through October 9, 2017
For more information, link here.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

EXHIBITIONS: (Part 3 of 3) : The Southwest: where nature and art intersect

 If you're heading to the Pacific Northwest or west coast in general
 this summer, you'll find plenty of Modernist art and design to sink 
your teeth into in cities like 
Phoenix, Portland and Los Angeles.

At the Phoenix Art Museum this summer:
Longer Ways to Go: Photographs of the American Road
Roger Minick, Airstream at Monument Valley, Arizona, 1979

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again;
we had longer ways to go.
But no matter, the road is life.”
                                      — Jack Kerouac,  On the Road

Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941

Jim Stone, Watson Lake, Yukon, 1975 

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From July 31, 2017 – Jan. 7, 2018 , LACMA, (the Los Angeles County Museum)
will be presenting a cheerful exhibition entitled Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage. The show spotlights Marc Chagall's designwork for the theater, a less well-known but important part of his revered artistic legacy.

Highlighting four theatrical productions created over a quarter century (Aleko, The Firebird, Daphnis and Chloe, and The Magic Flute), the show comprises 145 objects, including 41 colorful costumes; nearly 100 preliminary sketches; rare 1942 film footage of the original performance of Aleko; musical accompaniments for each section; and a selection of paintings depicting musicians and 
theatrical scenes.

Above: Chagall costumes for The Magic Flute

According to a curatorial note:

"Artists have long been inspired to expand their practices by engaging in 
compelling collaborations with the ballet, theater, and opera, and Chagall was 
at the forefront of such interdisciplinary efforts among modern artists 
in creating inventive visual environments for the stage."

 Below: Chagall ceiling at the Paris National Opera House

"Working with theatrical companies and opera houses in Russia,
Mexico, New York, and Paris, Chagall created fantastical and cutting-edge
designs. He collaborated on sets for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes as early as 1911, and his deep and far-reaching engagement with music and dance continued throughout his long career." 

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at The Portland Museum, through Sept.3, 2017

Quest for Beauty: The Architecture, Landscapes, and 

Collections of John Yeon

John Yeon's Aubrey Watzek House, Portland, Oregon, 1937
The house drew an international spotlight to regional 
Modernism in the Pacific Northwest.

John Yeon was a prominent architect living and working in the Pacific Northwest. He "had equal vision and influence as a planner, conservationist, historic preservationist, urban activist, and, perhaps most of all, connoisseur of elegance and craft." (from curator's note) Yeon designed distinctive buildings, created fantastical gardens, and fought to preserve some of the Northwest’s most treasured vistas—the Columbia River Gorge, the Oregon Coast, 
and Olympic National Park.

 Yeon’s inventive plywood houses of the late ‘30s and the 1950 Shaw House  anticipated the stylistic eclecticism of Postmodernism. This exhibition features original models and drawings, along with images by a trio of the midcentury’s greatest architectural photographers: Ezra Stoller, Maynard Parker, and Roger Sturtevant. Newly developed models and axonometric drawings "invite a greater understanding of Yeon’s careful siting of buildings and his cutting edge construction and sustainable design techniques." 

Yeon's Shaw House was featured as the cover image for
House Beautiful in April 1953.
Featured in the show is a high-definition time-lapse video depicting 
the changing seasons at The Shire, the 78- acre preserve 
in the Columbia Gorge that Yeon saved from development.
(see below)
°     °     °     °     °     °     °     °     °

And don't forget: Denver's newly reconstructed Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Arts will, at long last, reopen in early 2018 after its 8-block move !

 A cozy modernist living room at the Kirkland Museum in Denver
See my posting about the Kirkland's dramatic move (in one piece) here.  


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

ODD BITS: Century-old museum moves inside a new museum in Denver

Denverites -- no, you're not hallucinating.

This is a real photo of the city's 150-ton Kirkland Museum of

Decorative and Fine Arts being moved to its new site, 8 blocks away. 

or, as the Denver Post more cleverly wrote in their top headline (11/6/16):

"Historic 150-ton Kirkland Museum trundles across 
downtown Denver as it moves to new location" 

from article:
"Chris Ayres, 34, brought his 6-year-old son David from their home in Lone Tree to watch the move. "This guy loves watching big things move," he said of the boy. Below: onlookers are baffled, trying to figure out where they can buy more of the great, legal weed they've been smoking. "We can't wait to see it going downhill" exclaimed Todd Johnson, 47, who was at the corner of 13th Avenue and Pearl St. with his family.

Above: The 105-year old former Kirkland Museum 
The museum houses a stellar and eccentric 30,000-piece collection of 20th century decorative arts, from zany Clarice Cliff ceramic tableware to elegant Wiener Werkstätte silver flatware and textiles, Art Noveau furniture and metalwork, Charles Rennie Mackintosh chairs and picture frames, lots of mid-century modern furniture, and, of course, paintings by Vance Kirkland himself.

Above: Crowds begin to gather to watch The Big Move.

Above: The 105-year old former Kirkland Museum

Below: Artist's rendering of new Kirkland Museum, 8 blocks away from original site; 
another view showing incorporation of old museum

For more detailed info about the new Kirkland's architecture, visit

from the Denver Post

And now, a small peek at what's inside ...

Above: Jules Leleu Settee (c. 1933) from the S.S. Normandie

Below: a whole lotta mid-mod furniture, plus paintings by Vance Kirkland.

The Kirkland Museum houses three principal collections,

 and includes the original school and studio of artist Vance Kirkland.
 My husband and I visited several years ago, and were blown away 
by the quality and quantity of the artwork on display.
I'm a big Clarice Cliff fan, so I would have been happy
 just to see that!! 

The photos below were taken by Michael Schonbach
 in August 2013.

Eva Zeisel ceramics

Clarice Cliff's line of Bizarre Ware pottery -- hugely popular in the 1930s; wildly collectible today

Below: A crocheted 1970s dress and an iconic Andy Warhol soup can frock

Below: the thin line between collecting and hoarding?

Having attractive vitrines for display purposes helps a lot.


The new venue is scheduled to open in Denver in early 2018. See http://www.kirklandmuseum.org/ for detailed info. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

ODD BITS: Small products, big smiles

I've just discovered some zany food-related products 
created by Israeli industrial designer Avihai Shurinwhose studio specializes 
in highly original, stylish and whimsical everyday products. 

"We believe that small products make big smiles!"

Nibble the biscuit to style Sam’s hairdo.
(Cookie cutter is below.)

Below: Pepo fruit slicer turns unwieldy watermelon into
easily handled ice lollies.

Sunnyside egg shaper --->

Below: Just Hanging Simian Kitchen hooks

Mobilo - Mobile in a Bottle

~ oOo ~

Originally published on Mad for Mod blog
July 28, 2015

Monday, June 5, 2017

CELEBRATIONS: Frank Lloyd Wright's 150th Birthday! (June 8)

We interrupt our 3-part series on upcoming Modernist exhibitions to put on our party hats and celebrate the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright's birth. 

Arthur Heurtley House, Oak Park IL, 1902
The Arthur Heurtley House, located in Oak Park, Illinois, is one of the first 
of Wright’s famed Prairie houses. In 2000, when a $1.2 million restoration 
project was nearing its end, the house was designated as a 
National Historic Landmark.

FLW's iconic domestic commission, Falling Water, built in 1935 in
Mill Run PA, has been called "the best all-time work of American architecture"

This giant of architecture and design, and very quotable raconteur ("Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles"), was born in a Wisconsin farming town on June 8, 1867. This was before the invention of radio, the airplane, the hand-held camera and the vacuum cleaner, not to mention all our modern conveniences such as air conditioning, personal computers, post-it notes and mind numbing i-everythings. It seems like the less he had to work with, the more his imagination flourished.

Wright's output and longevity as an architect and urban planner were astonishing: he designed more than 1,000 structures, 532 of which were completed. His fertile period spanned more than 70 years. Wright called his design philosophy "organic architecture", meaning that he wanted his structures to exist in harmony with both humanity and nature. "Fallingwater" pictured above, may be the greatest example of this philosophy.

Though highly respected and considered an excellent teacher, humility was not one of his strong points. "Early in life I had to chose between honest arrogance and hypcritical humility. I chose the former and see no reason to change."

So much has been written about Wright that it seems redundant to the max to
Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/f/frank_lloyd_wright.h
try to pen anything more about this singular creative force. So we will leave you with photos of some of our favorite FLW houses and public spaces, as well as a (partial) list of upcoming activities honoring the birthday anniversary of this force of nature.

Taliesin West, Wright’s winter residence in Scottsdale, AZ, built in 1937
 Over the years, it expanded to include a large studio and architectural school much of which was designed by the architect’s students. Today, Taliesin West is home to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the campus of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. It is also open to public viewing.

 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY, NY
(exterior above; interior below)

For a comprehensive listing of events celebrating
Frank Lloyd Wright's sesquicentennial (!!)
link here

For a somewhat less worshipful article about FLW,
see the New York Times' article about the current MOMA exhibition

Frank Lloyd Wright Hated New York, Thought About Making the Guggenheim Pink, and Still Dreamed of Mile-High Skyscrapers

And for the kiddies, transform a gallery into an
interactive large-scale "coloring book" inspired by the architect's work

at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC


Thursday, June 1, 2017

EXHIBITIONS: (Part Two of Three): Modernist riches in the heartland

For those who live in, or will be traveling through, the country's heartland
over the next few months, there are many fascinating and eclectic exhibitions of the Modernist esthetic to savor. Below are some recommended shows
in Cleveland, Milwaukee, Denver, Chicago and Fort Worth.

 Muse with Violin Screen, Paul Fehér (c. 1930)
Rose Iron Work, Cleveland Art Museum

I may just have to buy a plane ticket ASAP to catch the Cleveland Art Museum's  The Jazz Age: America Style in the 1920s -- my favorite era, my favorite art genre. (It will run through New Year's day of 2018.)

After the First World War finally ended, people were in the mood to celebrate and find joy in life again.The USA became a global shining star of innovative fashion, music, architecture, interior decoration, metalwork, decorative arts and film. Talent and craftsmanship, urbanity and experimentation flowed back and forth across the Atlantic with an influx of European émigré designers coming to America and a rush of American creative talent traveling and studying abroad. A new language of design emerged to define a cosmopolitan era of innovation and modernity—the Jazz Age—capturing the pulse and rhythm of the American spirit. Art Deco had its heyday, and is still loved and collected by many aficionados.

 Jeune Fille Vert by Polish artist Tamara deLempika, 1929 --
"the first woman artist to be a glamour star." DeLempika's art
was noted for its sensuality and magnetism.

I love this soulful painting,
a copy of which which hangs in my living room. 

"I live life in the margins of society, and the rules of normal society."
                                                                                                            ... TdL
°     °     °     °     °    °     °
Have you ever wondered why some posters grab your attention and won't let go, and others barely graze your consciousness? The Milwaukee Art Museum, in coordination with the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, is currently presenting a fascinating graphic exhibition called How Posters Work, which explores wide range of social functions served by posters, from promoting a book or film, to advocating a political cause to providing information to pure art. Despite the rise of digital media, the print poster remains vital and often more compelling.

How Posters Work features more than 80 rarely seen posters from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s permanent collection. The exhibition demonstrates how some of the world’s most imaginative designers have pushed the boundaries of two-dimensional design, harnessed the mechanics and psychology of perception, and mastered the art of storytelling to produce powerful forms of visual communication. Graphic art by the great Paul Rand (see Mad for Mod's posting "Everything is Design", dated 9/29/15) is included in this jazzy show.

         °     °     °     °     °     °    °     °     °
Ruskin Ceramic Ware group
Works on view illustrate Howson Taylor's continual experimentation 
with innovative and challenging glaze techniques, resulting in four primary  
genres—soufflé, luster, crystalline/matte, and high-fired flambé.  

Running now through November 12 at the Denver Art Museum,  Artistry and Craftsmanship: Ruskin Pottery, Enamels and Buttons showcases the Ruskin Pottery style of hand-thrown and hand-turned ceramics bodies with innovative glazes. Founded in the early 1900s by Edward Richard Taylor and his son William Howson Taylor, Ruskin Pottery was named after watercolorist, philosopher and highly esteemed critic of the Arts & Crafts movement, John Ruskin.

Throughout its 35-year history, the pottery produced decorative vessels, tableware, buttons, and small glazed plaques called enamels, intended to be set into jewelry made of silver or pewter.  

According to a curatorial note, "This exhibition features about 80 objects from 213 works of Ruskin Pottery given to the Denver Art Museum by Carl Patterson, the museum's conservator emeritus. This remarkable gift makes the DAM collection of Ruskin Pottery one of the largest collections in the world and presents great opportunities for research, exhibition, and publication."

Bowl, 1927. Porcellaneous stoneware with luster glaze.
Manufactured by Ruskin Pottery, West Smethwick, England.

Above and below: Ruskin enamels and buttons

°     °     °     °     °     °    °     °     °
Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture
Show runs March 26 through June 25. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX.  
 Watercolor of Ponte Vecchio, Florence by Louis Kahn (c.1930)

Renowned as a master of light and space, Kahn (born Itze-Leib Schmuilowsky) is celebrated here in drawings, models, photographs and films. He created many singular, important buildings, including the Salk Institute in La Jolla, CA, the National Assembly Building in Dhaka, Bangladesh (consdered "one of the top 50 architctral achievements of the modern world"), as well as numerous domestic commisions. Also on view here are watercolors, pastels and charcoal drawings Kahn created during his travels.

The Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA image courtesy of News Wise

Kahn’s most iconic project is arguably Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban, the National Assembly of Bangladesh, located in the capital of Dhaka.  JSB was completed in 1982, twenty one years after construction began. Kahn was able to draw
plentiful illumination into this structure by using his remarkable sensibility
of spatial relationships and his ability to harness indirect natural light. 

 Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban (National Parliament House)
 Dhaka, Bangladesh

Louis Kahn, British Art Center at Yale University

°     °     °     °     °     °     °

Seen recently at the Chicago Design Museum's show
Dan Friedman: Radical Modernist
(Some assembly required)


Coming next in part 3 ...  
Denver's newly renovated Kirkland Museum
Opening Spring 2018