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03.26.2014
Review> New Take on Neutra
Michael Webb on the A+D Museum's exhibition, The Neutra Furniture Collection.
Derek Rath Photography

The Neutra Furniture Collection
A+D Architecture and Design Museum
6032 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
Through March 26

The A+D Museum, threatened with eviction for subway construction, is hanging on at 6032 Wilshire Boulevard, and has again demonstrated its vitality with an exhibit of furniture by Richard Neutra. Like so many of the early moderns, the Austrian émigré wanted to create total works of art, and he designed furniture for a few of his many projects—notably the Lovell Health and Tremaine houses, and the Channel Heights workers’ housing. Some of his designs were made by artisans, a few examples at a time; others remained on paper.

 
 

Dion Neutra made two previous attempts to put them into production, and finally he has succeeded. VS, a leading German contract furniture company, is manufacturing Neutra’s best designs for its first foray into the consumer market. Handmade objects have many variations, and sketches are open to interpretation. That gave VS the opportunity to make subtle changes in the size and detailing of the seating, with the approval of Neutra scholar Barbara Lamprecht, to enhance comfort and resilience. Cantilever chairs are available with wood or tubular metal frames; sofas are handsomely upholstered, and tables are fabricated from different woods. Thus a score of designs are available in many variations, giving us a fresh look at a legend we thought we knew.

 

The exhibition, which runs through March 26, is handsomely installed by Andrew Byrom. A Constructivist sculpture by Rolf Lieberknecht, composed of wood elements from the Boomerang chair, sets off the individual pieces, which have a strong sculptural quality of their own. Other architects—most recently David Adjaye, and Ben Berkel of UN Studio—are adding to the legacy of architect-designed furniture that began with Frank Lloyd Wright, more than a century ago. In contrast to ephemeral fashions in decoration, the best of these pieces have a timeless presence.

Michael Webb

Michael Webb is a frequent contributor to AN.