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 "Ray and Charles Eames":
Architects are no strangers to designing furniture, as they often strive for a visual homogeny throughout the interior and exterior of their built projects. At Friedman Benda in Chelsea, Manhattan, the historical legacy of architectural furniture is celebrated with Inside the Walls: Architects Design alongside its ambiguous future with No-Thing: An exploration into aporetic architectural furniture. Guest curated by Mark McDonald, Inside the Walls charts milestone furniture design across the 20th century from both domestic and international architects. The extensive survey extracts pieces of furniture designed for site-specific installations and displays them alone and with other items, drawing attention to how the designer’s influence and intent still shines through. The show’s focus might jump from piece to piece, displaying furniture by everyone from Charles and Ray Eames to Luis Barragán, but a “clarity of vision” threads throughout all of them. For example, a Frank Gehry-designed rocking chaise made from cardboard contains the same swooping curves and exploration of form as his buildings. Likewise, the collection of chairs, tables, and lighting fixtures designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, despite their simplicity, are immediately recognizable as his. Wright is inarguably the centerpiece at Inside the Walls. The show displays ephemera from across the architect’s career and presents him as an auteur. Visitors can examine the cantilevering sets of outdoor lighting fixtures from Wright’s 1914 Francis W. Little House up close, then study furniture from his 1956 Price Tower without missing a beat. No-Thing is located in Friedman Benda’s basement project space, and puts new commissions from up-and-coming studios front and center. Curator Juan García Mosqueda assembled a group showcase under the guise of a furniture exhibition, with works that implore the viewer to project personal meaning on the furniture within. This “non-dogmatic approach to object creation” is in direct contrast to the rigid visions of Inside the Walls in the space above, creating the titular “no-thing,” a work that is bestowed value by its users. A seemingly normal table built from leftover construction materials (MOS Architects) mingles with a blacked-out mirror (Norman Kelley) that challenges the viewer to see much of anything, playing with preconceived notions of what to expect from that typology. No-Thing features work by Andy and Dave (Brooklyn), Ania Jaworska (Chicago), architecten de vylder vinck taillieu (Gent, Belgium), Leong Leong (New York), MILLIØNS (Los Angeles), MOS (New York), Norman Kelley (New York, Chicago), SO–IL (Brooklyn), and Pezo von Ellrichshausen (Chile). Both Inside the Walls and No-Thing are on display at Friedman Benda at 515 W. 26th St, until February 17.
Tasked by Wisconsin furniture manufacturer Wooda with creating a chair, industrial designer Tucker Viemeister recreated Charles and Ray Eames 1950s Molded Fiberglass Side Chair in a log. This combination of a traditional raw material with new technology and CNC-machining challenges the notion that a design must be unique. “All designers feel challenged to create a great chair—but why? There are so many good ones already. What can the designer offer? What is new?” asked Viemeister in a statement. When Viemeister responded to Wooda's request for a new chair design with a photoshopped photo of a log with an Eames chair carved into it, founder Terry Sweeney was intrigued. He collected three eight-foot oak logs from a nearby forest and input the surface mesh metrics into a CNC-milling machine. The machines ground the end of the logs to a 21-inch-diameter, 17-inch-high seat using a process similar to a pencil sharpener. The rest of the log was left natural to further jar the eye as it tries to reconcile the iconic design in a wholly new medium. “The form is so engraved in our cultural memory that the slightest violation of line or curve stands out like fingernails on a chalkboard,” said Viemeister, whose clients include Corning glass, the National Zoo, Coca-Cola, Cuisinart, Apple, OXO, Toshiba, and many others. Wooda had initially reached out to the industrial designer because it wanted to connect its abundant access to raw materials, space, and technology with innovative ideas and fresh aesthetics. “Viemeister took me at my word when I said we seriously want to contribute to the heritage of great design,” Sweeney said in a statement. In addition to inviting acclaimed designers, Wooda has an open invitation on its site welcoming new, original ideas to be submitted for possible production.
Performance has been the breakout surprise of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. While many of the works inside the Chicago Cultural Center grapple with issues of urbanism, politics, and the resonances of Modernism (especially Mies’ oversized presence in the city) in contemporary culture, the three performances included in the opening weekend program address and embody what is at stake. Views from Superpowers of Ten by Andrés Jaque and the Office for Political Innovation (@andres_jaque, Instagram) Superpowers of Ten by Madrid/New York-based architect Andrés Jaque and his Office for Political Innovation, developed for and first performed at the Lisbon Architecture Triennial 2013, uses pop, oversized props and black-clad performers to restage of the Eames’ icon Powers of Ten. The original film was filmed on the banks of Lake Michigan, not far from the Chicago Athletic Club where it was performed. Jaque’s reworking expands the Eames narrative to our contemporary condition. The exponential zooming out from Earth and then back into the heart of the atom now includes critical questions of space junk, nuclear fallout, immigration, race, queerness, and transgender identity. In a gallery the unorthodox mix of para-architectural issues might seem ponderous, but told through pantomime, they resonate visually and emotionally. We Know How to Order, conceived by Bryony Roberts, and choreographed by Asher Waldron of the South Shore Drill Team powerfully superimposes the movement of African American bodies in space on top of the charged site of Federal Center by Mies van der Rohe. The South Shore Drill Team, hailing from one of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago, trains young people to master the precise choreography. On the plaza, while the performers mimicked the lines of Mies’ architecture, which underscoring the conditions of universal space into the public realm, they also brought joy and dynamism to the windswept public space. Even stalwarts of the architecture community were moved to tap their feet and wipe their eyes. https://vimeo.com/141231941 Performed in Mies' super spare Carr Chapel on the IIT campus, Theatre by Mexican artist Santiago Borja brought a different kind of otherness to the Miesian space of worship. The performance was set with two specially-designed petate rugs, woven in Mexico, that represent esoteric geometries developed in Europe at the start of the modern movement. Made out of palm leaves, one rug sits on the floor and the other hangs above, demarking what is not so much a stage as an abstract spiritual space for Ingrid Everwijn, the lead teacher of the Eurythmeum CH in Dornach Switzerland. Dressed in pink and yellow dress, Everwijn performed eurythmy movements—a kind of “spiritual gymnastics” developed by Rudolf Steiner and Marie Sivers in early 20th Century. The result was mystical, irrational, and energetic, as well as an immersive experience that undermined the rigors of Miesian abstraction.