MAD Summer Exhibits

Two exhibits recently opened at the Museum of Art and Design, in addition to the Studio Jobs show (reviewed previously here) .  Eye for Design is a look back at graphic design in the 1960’s and 70’s, through catalogues, invitations and posters created for the Museum in that era, when it was known as the Museum of Contemporary Crafts.  This show not only affords you an overview of design ideas and techniques, and how they create a visual identity, but also allows an appreciation of the many innovative exhibits the Museum held.

4 Fearless Phoenicians by John Reiss

4 Fearless Phoenicians by John Reiss

I especially liked the installation of John Reiss’ work for Amusements Is, a 1964 show which featured artist-designed toys and games.  On one wall is a blown-up version of the catalogue, which eschews the typical photos of objects and explanatory text.  Instead, it was designed like a children’s counting book, on vividly colored pages which mixed photography and typography, as well as absurdist word-plays, such as “4 Fearless Phoenicians,” capturing the playful nature of the exhibit.

One room is devoted to the work of Emil Antonucci, whose work is defined by repeated motifs, clean graphics, bright colors and a certain whimsy that clearly convey their message.  Take a look at the invitations he created for The Art of Personal Adornment, with their hand-rendered drawings of jewelry, as well as The Bed, where the invitation for the exhibition  folds into a bed.  His work on invitations and catalogues for exhibits such as The Bakers Art, Stitching, Tools of Design, and On SOUND also illustrate the ways in which the Museum was expanding the definition of craft to include “mundane” practices, such as cooking, and sensory experiences, such as sound – a definition which is often considered overly expansive. In a nice instance of synchronicity, the On SOUND exhibit also included work by Harry Bertoia, the subject of a current exhibition at the Museum (reviewed below.)

Be sure to check out Linda Hinrich’s work, with it’s Pop art and psychedelic flavor;  in the same room, be sure to watch the video showing submissions for Levi’s 1974 denim art contest, many of which are very imaginative: most images were of flowers and birds, but I also saw a jungle scene, and one of the Golden Gate Bridge. The contestants (over 2,000) employed a wide variety of techniques – appliqué, studding, embroidery and patchwork.

Eye for Design closes on September 18th.

Jewelry by Harry Bertoia

Jewelry by Harry Bertoia

Two floors are devoted to the work of Arri (Harry) Bertoia (1915-78), whose minimalist ethic is manifest not only in the shapes, forms, movements and line of his monotypes, but also in his exploration of the limitless possibilities of metal , both visual and sonic. 

Bent, Cast & Forged: The Jewelry of Harry Bertoia   is a wonderful display of his jewelry from the 1940‘s, with their spare, biomorphic shapes, inspired by nature.  Many have loops, allowing for kinetic movement, and are made from recycled metals (because of the war).  Several of Bertoia’s monotypes are displayed alongside his jewelry, highlighting the connection between them. Presaging his interest in sound, you’ll also find pendants entitled “Gong.”

Sonambient sculptures by Val Bertoia

Sonambient sculptures by Val Bertoia

Atmosphere for Enjoyment concentrates on Bertoia’s tonal sculptures: groupings of metal rods of various heights and thicknesses – sometimes weighted on the top – mounted into a low pedestal, which produce sound when strummed, plucked, or struck.  It’s a bit hard to describe the sound – somewhere between bells, wind chimes, harp, gong – some soothing, some harsh, some lush – it all depends on how the rods are played.   As you walk through the exhibit, you’ll hear excerpts from his archive of “sonambient” recordings, played on a four-channel algorithmic continuous loop created by John Brien.  For a closer listen, go into the exhibit installation – an unenclosed room lined with photos of the Sonambient Barn Bertoia created in 1968 in Pennsylvania, which still stands today.

Throughout the show you’ll find several of the “Diamond” chairs Bertoia designed for Knoll, that you can sit in (very comfortable!) Take time to peruse Bertoia’s monotypes from 1940-1978, whose sinewy, elegant lines are a perfect pairing with his sculptures.

Untitled by Harry Bertoia, monotype

Untitled by Harry Bertoia, monotype

If you take a guided tour of the Museum (our docent, Marjorie, was very knowledgable and personable)  you may actually get a chance to “play” some of the sound sculptures created by Bertoia’s son, Val, who used the same metals as his father had.  I did, and it gave me a deeper appreciation for their construction and sonic abilities. 

Both exhibits of Bertoia’s work close on September 25th.

You can find more photos from these exhibits on      my Instagram feed.

On September 16th, at 6:00pm, the Museum will host a panel discussion with John Brien and New York–based musicians Lizzi Bougatsos and Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe about the continued relevance of Harry Bertoia’s sonambient sculptures. The program will include a screening of two films by Jeffrey and Miriam Eger, and a presentation by Val Bertoia, who will play his sonambient sculptures in the exhibition immediately following the talk.

Throughout the year, MAD has numerous lectures, films, workshops, and activities for the whole family.  You can find the schedule here 

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