Midcentury American Art and Design
Museum of Arts and Design
2 Columbus Circle
Through January 15, 2012
Crafting Modernism: Midcentury American Art and Design presents the evolution of the design industry spanning 25 years, from the late 1940s to 1969. The show explores the contributions of artists and designers using craft media—defined here as clay, fiber, wood, metal, glass, and alternative materials—within a culture focused on mass-production in the years following World War II. Through their work, designers and craftsmen reacted to the plethora of machine- and mass-produced consumer appliances, furniture and textiles; at the same time a there was a growing consumer interest in the individualistic aesthetic of handmade works. Craft, which spanned the fields of product design to architecture, became a medium for social commentary, philosophy and wit, as seen in the My Mu terracotta vase by Isamu Noguchi (above), an idiosyncratic, three-legged ceramic containing a central cavity that provocatively references the Zen concept of mu, meaning “nothingness.” In addition to Noguchi, the exhibition features the work of Harry Bertoia, George Nakashima, Ray and Charles Eames, and Alexander Calder, among others.
Dan Rubinstein, editor-in-chief of Surface magazine, is curating a series of lectures at the Museum of Arts and Design evaluating the future of American furniture design. Dubbed “The Home Front: American Furniture Now,” the five-lecture series begins this Thursday, January 13 as leading furniture retailers present their views on the difficulty selling American design. In March, AN‘s own executive editor Julie Iovine will lead a roundtable panel called “Drafted” on the importance of American design for architects and designers.
By the time we realized there were no water taxis headed uptown and took the A train, instead, the Museum of Arts and Design’s opening day press conference was almost over and only a few diehard journo’s (Christopher Hawthorne, Robert Campbell) were still lurking around to talk to museum architect Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture (above in the catbird seat) about winning the four-year fight to turn a playboy’s private collection housed in crimson and burled panelling into a high-tech cabinet of craft curiosities. Asked what he thought about the space now that it’s chock-ablock with the kind of severe white (though some are black) Fort-Knox-style display cases favored by the downtown design store Moss, the architect said, “They have to learn how to play the instrument.”