Crafting Modernism

by Robin Muto on October 7, 2011

in Art and Design,Art Objects,Design Philosophy,Residential Design

Living in NYC in the late sixties, I witnessed the emergence of craft studios opening in many neighborhoods.  My boyfriend, at the time, was working at a pottery studio in Greenwich Village and the earthy energy I experienced there was like nothing I had experienced before.  Being young and filled with the romance and idealism of Woodstock – Joni Mitchell, Crosby Stills, Nash & Young, etc, I decided that I was going to be a potter, live off the land, dig my own clay….you know the drill.   Although my interests have developed into the related field of Interior Design, it should come as no surprise, especially to those who knew me back then, that the Craft Movement is still near and dear to my heart.

In the tradition of Rochester’s ‘First Fridays, my blog on every first Friday will be dedicated to a topic on the relationship between Art and Design.

Opening this October at the MAD in NYC (Museum of Art and Design) is the show “Crafting Modernism: Midcentury American Art and Design”.  This show covers work in all craft media and explores the connections between craft and the design world.  Also examined are designers who incorporated craft techniques or craft aesthetics into wide-scale production such as Edith Heath (Heath Ceramics) and Charles and Ray Eames.

The modern day craft movement began to evolve after WW II as a backlash to the machine aesthetic of mass production.  Strong ties between the craft and the design world began to develop and craft programs expanded into university art departments.  Some artist-craftsman increasingly explored sculptural and aesthetic qualities of their materials over the making of functional objects.

As craft objects began to be included in museum and gallery exhibitions, it added to the ongoing political and social dialog in American art and life, serving as a representative of a counter-culture lifestyle.  Represented in this exhibition is Wendell Castle and one of my all time favorite textile designers, Jack Lenor Larsen.  If you can’t make it to NYC to see the show, it will be at the Memorial Art Gallery here in Rochester, NY in February 2012.

Lidded Vessel by Joel Edwards c.1966

Bas Relief by Jack Lenor Larsen 1968

Handbag for Janis Joplin by Linda Gravenites 1960s

High Back Lounge Chair and Ottoman by Harry Bertoia after 1952

Untitled (stained glass window) by Adolph Gottlieb c.1954

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