Since its inception in 1929 The Museum of Modern Art
, New York (MoMA), has been at the forefront of recognizing pivotal moments of radical change in twentieth-century design through its exhibition and collection program. As part of the High Museum of Art
's ongoing collaboration with MoMA, "Modern by Design" presents a selection of works chronicling three key moments in MoMA's design collection and exhibition history. "Machine Art" (1934), "Good Design" (1950-1955) and "Italy: The New Domestic Landscape" (1972) that heralded groundbreaking aesthetic movements and intellectual considerations. Nearly 150 objects created by more than 120 of the most influential artists and designers of the twentieth century are included. A companion installation, "High Design," incorporates 20 works by nine designers from the High's growing collection of contemporary design. The exhibition is on view exclusively in Atlanta from June 4 through August 21, 2011.
"MoMA has consistently set the bar for design aesthetics throughout the twentieth century, particularly through their creation of the first-ever art museum department devoted to architecture and design," said David Brenneman, the High's Director of Collections and Exhibitions. "While at the time certain exhibitions and acquisitions often sparked controversy and debate, the ideas and objects that they introduced now serve as the canon of modernist design. The High's companion installation will extend the visitor's design experience to the present day with new acquisitions for our own growing collection of contemporary work."
"Modern by Design" continues a multi-year, multi-exhibition collaboration between the High and MoMA. The collaboration was launched in 2009 with "Monet Water Lilies." Following "Modern by Design," the High presents a major exhibition exploring the work of twelve of the most important artists of the twentieth century: Brancusi, Calder, de Chirico, Duchamp, Johns, Léger, Matisse, Miró, Mondrian, Picasso, Pollock and Warhol. A second large-scale exhibition and two additional focus shows are in development for 2012 and 2013.
The first key moment the exhibition highlights is the year 1934, with a look at work featured in MoMA's "Machine Art" exhibition, curated by Philip Johnson that year. "Machine Art" showcased machines, machine parts, scientific instruments and everyday objectsfrom springs, ball bearings, and propellers to calipers, glass wares and furniture. Displayed in the galleries against white walls with platforms and dramatic lighting, these objects were presented for the first time at the level of fine art, which celebrated their functionalism and aesthetic purity. The exhibition in turn boosted sales of these attainable American-made products and was the first in MoMA history to contribute works to the collection. Eighteen objects by 13 designers are a part of the installation at the High.
Eager to cultivate a taste for modernism and shape consumer culture at large, MoMA at mid-century exhibited numerous works of so-called Good Design including furniture, textiles, lighting and everyday objects such as vegetable peelers, an ax, a clothes hamper and a plumb bob. These were famously displayed in the competition/exhibition series "Good Design" (1950-1955), directed by Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. This second highlighted moment is presented in the context of its significant precursors, the tremendously successful competitions (and their corresponding exhibitions) "Organic Design in Home Furnishing" (1940-1941) and the "International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture" (1948-1950). In all of these projects MoMA joined forces with manufacturers and designers to promote new aesthetics and affordable products. Key works in this section include furniture by the young designers Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen, colorful textiles by Alexander Girard, Tupperware and abstract, sculptural lamps by George Nelson and Greta von Nessen. As a testament to their enduring popularity, some of these works are still in production today. The High features 109 objects by 78 designers in this section of the exhibition.
Italy: The New Domestic Landscape
In 1972 "Italy: The New Domestic Landscape" addressed the idea of modernism in the context of 1960s and 1970s counterculture, and serves as the third key moment explored in the exhibition. Focusing on the international significance of contemporary Italian design as well as new ideas about casual and flexible lifestyles, the works on display illustrated the growing divergence between modernist design and radical "anti-design," setting the tone for postmodernism in the decades to come. Aimed at youth culture and using such new materials as plastic and polyurethane foam, Pop-inspired designs such as the "Blow" inflatable chair (1967) by De Pas, Lomazzi and Di'Urbino and the "Malitte" seating system (1966) by Matta have become icons of the period. Twenty-one objects by 30 designers are a part of the installation at the High.
In conjunction with "Modern by Design," the High presents an installation of late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century design drawn from the High's growing permanent collection. The seven artists featured represent the diversity and international character of the field today, and over 20 proposed and recent acquisitions include prototypes, limited editions, industrial production and installations by the foremost Western and non-Western designers from two generations. Featured designers include Ettore Sottsass (Italian, 1917¨C2007); Johanna Grawunder (American, born 1961); Shiro Kuramata (Japanese, 1934-1991); Nendo/Oki Sato (Japanese, born 1977); Patrick Jouin (French, born 1967); Hella Jongerius (Dutch, born 1963); and Joris Laarman (Dutch, born 1979).