California Design, 1930-1965: “Living in a modern way”

California Design, 1930-1965: “Living in a modern way”

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is hosting the first major exhibition and study of California midcentury modern design. With more than 350 objects—furniture, ceramics, metalwork, fashion and textiles, and industrial and graphic design—the exhibition examines the state’s role in shaping the material culture of the entire country. It aims to elucidate the 1951 quote from émigré Greta Magnusson Grossman that is incorporated into the exhibition’s title: California design “is not a superimposed style, but an answer to present conditions…It has developed out of our own preferences for living in a modern way.”

The exhibition is divided in four thematic areas: “Selling California Modern”, “Shaping”, “Making”, “Living”. It begins by tracing the origins of a distinctive California modernism in the 1930s, including work by Rudolph Schindler, Richard Neutra, and their contemporaries. It then explores the design innovations made possible by the conversion of World War II technologies to peace-time use, exemplified by the plywood and fiberglass furniture pioneered by Charles and Ray Eames. The heart of the exhibition focuses on the modern California home, famously characterized by open plans and indoor/outdoor living and furnished with products from companies such as Heath Ceramics, Van Keppel-Green, and Architectural Pottery. Many of the furnishings for these homes were produced by other important companies and designers whose work will be a revelation to museum audiences. The show concludes by exploring how ‘The California Look’ was disseminated by exhibitions, magazines, shops, and films throughout America and the world.

Above are concepts from Innovant’s Dave Jarmula, harking on 1930’s modernism with classic silhouettes and clean lines.

“California Design” has been organized by Wendy Kaplan, who heads the department of decorative arts and design at LACMA, and Bobbye Tigerman, a curator in the department.

The exhibition will be open until March 25 2012 at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90048.