A new exhibition coming to the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) and Denver Art Museum (DAM) will explore how the spirit of play has become a serious part of design conversation. Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America will open on September 28 at the MAM and will move to the DAM on May 5 next year. The exhibition takes a close look at the cultural production of mid-century America. Postwar architect and designer Alexander Girard was a pioneer in introducing playfulness into the household with his flexible and imaginative wall storage units and eye-popping armchairs and ottomans. Architect and professor Anne Tyng was also a key figure in merging the fields of play and architecture, developing a modular system where plywood pieces can be assembled into anything from a toy to a piece of furniture. The exhibition will include over 200 works in different media, from paper crafts, to mid-century favorites like plywood and composite boards. It will revolve around three themes: the American home, child’s play, and corporate approaches to design. Items such as Irving Harper-designed clocks, the Eames Storage Units, and videography of Ray and Charles Eames will be featured. Pieces by lesser-known designers fill the show. A color-blocking cabinet made of lacquered Masonite and birch, the Swing-Line Toy Chest, by Henry P. Glass will be on view as well as lithographs by the graphic designer Paul Rand along with stoneware by dinnerware and home goods designer Eva Zeisel. Arthur Carrara’s toy design (shown at top) is a highlight. The Chicago architect and designer created magnetic toys inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Houses and the modern movement. First sold in a yellow cardboard box, the set includes metal plates with magnetic joints, and children were encouraged to explore their creativity by building three-dimensional sculptures. According to a statement from the DAM, a myriad of different factors came together to allow for the bold design of the fifties and sixties. “Diverse materials and manufacturing techniques opened up possibilities for new approaches to design and larger-scale production.” As average income grew and leisure time increased after WWII, a larger segment of the population was able to afford high-design items. They turned their attention towards childhood development and were willing to invest in child-friendly furniture pieces and designer household objects. The statement also attributed “escapism into everyday spaces” to the anxieties of the Cold War.
Posts tagged with "Milwaukee Art Museum":
[beforeafter] [/beforeafter] The Milwaukee Art Museum revamp's previous design and current iteration. (Courtesy HGA Architects & Engineers) The Milwaukee Art Museum’s long-planned expansion and renovation has become somewhat of a saga. Plans for a new addition with an entrance along Lake Michigan were announced in 2012, but hit a snag when HGA Architects and Engineers’ Jim Shields walked off the job in February. In April Urban Milwaukee first broke news that Shields, somewhat of a local design celebrity, had left the project amid quibbling over the design. That spurred conversation around town, with Journal-Sentinel critic Mary Louise Schumacher suggesting the museum consider not building an addition at all. In a surprise twist, Shields returned to the project, having apparently reconciled a dispute over the design direction. The project’s future, however, is still uncertain. As Schumacher pointed out in a column Friday, the new design replaces the 1975 Kahler addition’s eastern face with a glassy atrium. That building originally featured elegantly recessed windows that were later pushed flush with the façade, contributing to the eastern entrance’s deactivation. The museum would eventually close it completely after opening the Santiago Calatrava addition in 2001. The dark zinc or copper patina HGA is considering for the addition’s exterior would recall some of the original design’s drama, while engaging the lakefront with a glassy atrium in a way that Kahler’s building could not. But Schumacher wonders if the museum might be able to accomplish its goals without adding to the mishmash of architectural styles that sparked this continuing saga. Repairs to Eero Saarinen’s adjacent War Memorial building are also part of the plan. The total project will cost at least $25 million. The County of Milwaukee will contribute $10 million toward repairs, and the museum has already raised $14 million. While the architectural legacies of Shields, Kahler, Calatrava and Saarinen are all at stake to varying degrees, not to mention the city’s lakefront urban context, Milwaukeeans have plenty to consider.
The Milwaukee Art Museum announced in 2012 that it would add a new entrance as part of a $15 million project to renovate the museum’s permanent collection galleries. Two years later, with $13 million raised and public support secured, the project is ready to move ahead. But the original lead designer, Jim Shields, is no longer involved. Urban Milwaukee first reported that Shields, a celebrated local architect whose work includes the Museum of Wisconsin Art and the Milwaukee Public Museum’s Butterfly Vivarium, turned over the design reigns to other members of his firm, HGA Architects and Engineers. What exactly precipitated that reorganization is still unclear, but museum director Dan Keegan said a team of designers, contractors and museum curators filled in when Shields either left or was pushed out of the design process at this late phase. Though similar to the 2012 proposal, the new design adds a second floor to the 17,000-square-foot addition, as well as an outdoor area cantilevered out toward Lake Michigan. It lacks Shields’ glassy, double-height frontage onto the lake. The plan calls for more exhibition space, including a 5,000-square-foot gallery for feature exhibitions and a sculpture gallery visible from outside. Part of the goal is to engage the lakefront Oak Leaf Trail, inviting passersby to engage beyond the iconic brise-soleil of the building’s Santiago Calatrava–designed Quadracci Pavilion. The new front door is also closer to the parking lot, facilitating circulation. Instead of walking more than half a mile to enter through the 2001 Calatrava addition, visitors coming from the north can use a much closer point of entry that looks out to Lake Michigan—not the busy lakeside streets of downtown Milwaukee. Milwaukee County is also pitching in $10 million to repair the museum and the adjacent Eero Saarinen–designed War Memorial building, which suffer from structural problems including foundation seepage and leaky windows. The museum’s grand reopening is slated for October 2015.
Grete Marks: When Modern Was Degenerate Milwaukee Art Museum 700 North Art Museum Drive Milwaukee, WI Through January 1 Grete Marks was born in Cologne in 1899 to an artistic Jewish family, and she enrolled in the ceramics program at the Bauhaus School in 1920. In 1923 she left the school to marry a young industrialist with whom she founded the Haël Factory for Artistic Ceramics to produce her designs. These works are composed of simple geometric shapes, glazed with striking colors and patterns in the style of Soviet Constructivist painters and showcasing the Bauhaus ideal of uniting industrial mass-production with Modernist aesthetics. Marks’ legacy as a potter was cut short by the Nazi party when in 1935 they declared her artwork “degenerate,” and her avant-garde pottery career ended with the onset of World War II. This will be the first American exhibition to explore Marks’ work and the circumstances that have prevented her name from entering the list of Bauhaus greats.
Currents 35: Tara Donovan Milwaukee Art Museum 700 North Art Museum Drive Milwaukee, WI Through October 7 The work of Tara Donovan demands close reading. By using strict rule-based systems, Donovan accumulates individual pieces of material into installations that defy easy identification. Milwaukee Art Museum chief curator Brady Roberts explains, “Donovan’s process involves selecting one material and finding one unique solution for its construction, whether it’s folding, gluing, stacking, or pressing.” Taking cues from 1960s conceptual artists like Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt, whose works rely on rule-based processes, Donovan obscures her quotidian materials to compose spectacular objects. The exhibition includes several major works including Haze, a 32-foot wall covered in approximately three million straws, Unititled, 2008 on polyester film (detail, above), and Drawing (Pins), 2011 composed of gatorboard, paint, and nickel-plated steel pins.