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

Monday, June 18, 2018

EXHIBITIONS: Roz Chast's "Cartoon Memoirs" delights at the Museum of the City of New York (through 10/9)

Subway Sofa 
A large-scale mural created specially for the MCNY exhibition
All images ©Roz Chast, unless otherwise noted

Dear readers,
This hilarious and stellar Roz Chast show was featured at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA in the fall of 2015. I loved it, and blogged about it, and was delighted to hear that it later moved on to the Museum of the City of New York -- another favorite venue of mine.

Roz appeared in engaging conversations at both museums, speaking about her prolific career. If you missed these entertaining talks, you can see a video of her 2015 event at the Norman Rockwell Museum here.


There are some artists who move us with their wisdom and unique perspective, and others who amuse us with their wit. Some uplift us with their humanity, or perplex us with their inscrutability. It's the rare artist who succeeds in doing all of these at once. One of them is New Yorker cartoonist and author Roz Chast, whose prolific output is currently on display at the Museum of the City of New York. Cartoon Memoirs is simply a "mustn't miss" show. We could all use some laughs right about now!

Above: Roz Chast at book signing, following 
a most entertaining talk about her life & career
NRM, Stockbridge Mass., July 9, 2015
Photo by Michael Schonbach

Below is the first Roz Chast cartoon I ever saw, 
published in her 1984 book Parallel Universes
I knew from that moment that I had found a kindred spirit.

Chast brought her first submission, a portfolio of sixty 
drawings, to the New Yorker in 1978. Much to her surprise, Little Things 
was chosen for publication by the cartoons editor. (Some regular readers 
were appalled, and one inquired whether the magazine owed money to Chast's family!)

Over the years, Chast's cartoons have become one of the most beloved features of the magazine. Some of her favorite subjects are greeting cards, book jackets, UFO's, 
gizmos, room interiors, creepy medical conditions, tombstones, 
and -- of course -- family dysfunction.

Her images are filled with a barely controlled hysteria that seamlessly mixes
madcap humor and all-too-relatable anxiety in equal measure. What fun it is to 
wander through a museum and hear peals of laughter 
coming from all the rooms of an art exhibition!

The exhibition also includes some of Chast's hooked rugs and Ukrainian Easter eggs, 
(pysanky), with which she says she was "obsessed" for a couple of years.

Hello, 2015
hand-hooked rug, wool, burlap

Some awfully cute pysanky

"With their brilliant colors, rendered smooth and glossy by a polyurethane topcoat, Ms. Chast's eggs are extraordinarily lovely -- glorious jewel-toned objects whose aesthetic 
lies somewhere between Fabergé and Dr. Seuss."
... NY Times, November 2004

Chast's first New Yorker cover, above, was published in 1986.
She sees it as a "family tree" of ice cream. (Her father thought it 
portrayed a doctor pointing out foods that should never, ever be eaten.)


She has penned more than 1000 drawings and numerous covers for the New Yorker over the past thirty years. Above left is a representation of her hand painted pysanky collection. Above right: some fantastical seed packets.

And ... ta da ... The Book!

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Chast's graphic memoir of growing up in Brooklyn as the only child of hypochondriac, affection-withholding parents, and eventually caring for them during their declining years, is an instant classic. Among many, many awards and accolades, the book was selected as one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2014. 

The full contents of Can't We Talk ... are displayed at the MCNY's exhibition. 
You can read the NY Times book review here.
The Guardian's review is here.

"The Wheel of Doom", a major laugh-getter at the exhibition,
was originally rejected by the New Yorker for publication in the magazine.
Chast spoke briefly about the rejection that cartoonists - even famous ones - must endure.
"If there's ANYTHING else you can do for a living besides this," she jokes, "DO IT!"

During the first weekend of April 2016, Roz Chast took up residence on the museum's third floor
to create "Subway Sofa," a painting that welcomes visitors to her exhibition. 

"Featuring the cramped comfort of NYC apartments and the horrors of subway 
commuting, it's the perfect foray into a show that highlights 
the absurdities of NYC life in hilarious cartoons."

See video of the artist at work here.

That's all, folks!

~ oOo ~

Sunday, March 4, 2018

ODD BITS: Cricket, fish & chips, James Bond and the Loch Ness monster featured on new British coins

The British government has been having a lot of fun with design lately, creating new images for their postage stamps and coins. If you saw my posting about last year's Agatha Christie stamps you'll know what I'm talking about! 

This month, the The Royal Mint in Britain is set to release a new group of 26 10-pence coins, each representing a letter of the alphabet, and each devoted to a different British tradition, expression or talisman. 

“This series," says a representative of the mint,"really drills down into the heartland of what makes Britain British. It’s the granularity of British life celebrated on the coinage.”

If you're surprised that the letter "Q" does not stand for "Queen", don't worry -- she's on the back of each coin. 

In this case the "Q" stands for "queue", representing the Brits'
penchant for orderliness and good manners.

My current favorites are 
         • post box

• Loch Ness monster

and Bond ... James Bond

The British public was invited to vote on their favorite in each category. When asked for example, what the most iconic British food is, 52 per cent voted for fish and chips, surprisingly beating Sunday roast, Yorkshire pudding and cream tea.

Below is a full list of the new coins
A – Angel of the North
B – Bond... James Bond
C – Cricket
D – Double-decker bus
E – English breakfast
F – Fish and chips
G – Greenwich mean time
H – Houses of Parliament
I – Ice-cream cone
J – Jubilee
K – King Arthur
L – Loch Ness Monster
M – Mackintosh (the raincoat, not the famed architect)
N – National Health Service
O – Oak tree
P – Post box
Q – Queuing
R – Robin
S – Stonehenge
T – Teapot
U – Union flag
V – Village
W – World Wide Web
X – X marks the spot
Y – Yeoman
Z - Zebra crossing

Britain's favorite food

                                          For more info and pix, link here.

                                                                ~ oOo ~

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

POSTWAR STYLE: Costume as a character in "A Place to Call Home"

If you're missing the costume dramas that kept us entertained during 
the last decade or so -- I'm thinking of Mad Men or Miss Fisher's
          Murder Mysteries or Downton Abbey -- you might find your 
             heart's desire in A Place to Call Home,
       "Australia's little series that could."  (Sydney Morning Herald)

This series makes a meal out of period fashion and design from the 1950s, 
treating it as a quintessential character in the show. Sweet shirtwaist dresses,
twirly A-line skirts, padded shoulders, "twin sets" (a matching shell sweater 
and long-sleeved cardigan ensemble, often worn with pearls
and single-breasted coats abound as the choices for women.
For men, dapper hats (think Don Draper's classic fedora) worn with comfortably fitting full-cut, slightly drape-y suits are what's in. The prevailing design  
ethos of the era was being able to take virtually any man’s body type 
and make it look good through proper tailoring.

Below: Actor Brett Climo is perfectly appointed and
appropriately slouchy here as George Bligh, a wealthy landowner 
from Inverness with a heart of gold.

°     °     °      °     °     °

Above: vindictive, conniving villianess Regina Bligh (Jenny Baird),
 dressed to kill, in rich mauve and jet black. She
reminds me of the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz. 

 Regina was toned way down
 by three years of repentance in a psychiatric hospital. 
If you're an aficionado of the show,
you'll have seen the dramatic change in her costumes
from bright, spotlight-grabbing primary colors to 
neutral, wishy washy ones.

Costume director Lisa Meagher
 says that she puts Regina (Jenni Baird) in florals 
when the character is "trying to be nice".

°     °     °     °     °     °     °     °     °     °
Sara Nordman, just off the boat, arriving in Australia

I've always put the show's herione Sara (played by Marta Dusseldorp) 
above fashion, due to her history as a Holocaust survivor and her wise  
down-to-earthness. Below are a couple of her looks.

Is Sarah's lovely sweater/jumper an argyle pattern or not?
See comments section (below) to read a lively debate about this subject!

°     °     °     °     °     °     °     °     °

Below: Abby Earl as Anna Poletti,
trying (unsuccessfully) to be happy as farmer Gino's wife. 

But no ...

She's much happier being Anna Bligh,
bestselling author and elegant glamour girl.

°     °     °     °     °     °
Anna's formerly secret parents, bohemian Carolyn and 
Dr. Jack Duncan (Sara Wiseman and Craig Hall)  -- a married couple
in real life -- strike a stylish Bonnie and Clyde pose.

°     °     °     °     °     °

Family matriarch Elizabeth Bligh (played by Australian film icon Noni 
Hazlehurst) starts off in the series as a judgemental, intimidating character, 
but life experience forces her to see her homophobia and anti-Semitism for
the ugly traits they are. As her attitudes soften, so
does her wardrobe. 

°     °     °     °     °     °     °     °

Where's season 6, Lizzie?

~ oOo ~

Seasons 1-5 can be watched on Acorn.tv
Season 6 is currently beginning production.