Mid-Century: “Good Design” in Europe and America, 1850-1950
July 8 – September 5, 2010
Charles and Ray Eames, Dining Chair, 1946, Molded and bent (birch?) plywood and rubber shock mounts. Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, Gift of Barry Friedman, 1984.23.
Between 1850 and 1950, progressive artists, designers, and architects decisively reshaped the everyday world of objects. Advocating for design reform—and by extension, social reform—they promoted a host of competing ideologies that embraced aesthetic revolution and technical innovation.
Though the history of modern design is often charted as a singular arc—one beginning with the legacy of historicist designs and hand craftsmanship and ending with the widespread embrace of new abstract forms and machine production—in actuality the ideals underlying modernism resulted in varied solutions. As tastes changed, young designers, new movements, and a previous generation’s vanguard overlapped, and the newcomers did not always reject the immediate past while projecting in their own innovations a better material and spiritual future.
Featuring both one-of-a-kind commissions as well as mass-produced objects, “Good Design” is divided into four overlapping thematic sections highlighting masterworks such as Edmund Johnson’s facsimiles of medieval treasures made for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, Frank Lloyd Wright’s dining room furniture from the historic Robie House, Marianne Brandt’s rare handmade tea service from the Bauhaus, and iconic plywood and metal chairs designed by Charles and Ray Eames.
Through the close examination of these and many other objects, the exhibition provides a nuanced look at artistic innovations within a broader cultural context of social activism, nationalism, and international politics.
Furnishing the Good Fight: Mid-Century Modern and the Cold War
July 16, 2010
Containing Emotions: Bowls
July 25, 2010
A Break with the Past: The Bauhaus, Hitler, and Chicago
August 5, 2010
Redrawing Wright (Cancelled)
August 21, 2010
Containing Emotions: Chairs
August 29, 2010
Celebrate the centennial of Frank Lloyd Wright's icon of modernism, the Robie House.