June 8, 2012

Ray & Charles Eames Sculpture

Last year I wrote a piece for Humanities Magazine about considering Ray and Charles Eames as artists, not designers. I don't mean by rewriting history or retrofitting a contemporary definition of artist onto them. It's just that I think there's a lot of insights to be gained today by adding them and their studio and their collaboration and their output to the discussion of contemporary artistic practice.

eames_ply_sculpture_01.jpg

Of course, the fact that the Eameses made a molded ply sculpture in 1943 and showed it at MoMA in 1944 kind of complicates my "they weren't artists but" conceit a little bit.

eames_ply_sculpture_02.jpg

But just a little. The show at the Modern was called Design for Use, and was curated by Serge Chermayeff, so about as all-applied and non-art as you could get.
Even though it couldn't be more useless. And so it was shown on a pedestal, like a sculpture, away from the array of useful products. Also, it nominally has a front [top].

eames_ply_sculpture_moma.jpg

And though Christie's East decided it belonged in an "Important Design" auction when Chermayeff unloaded it 1999, this time around it's in--oh, it's in decorative arts & design. Guess I had my browser tabs confused for a second.

eames_ply_sculpture_03.jpg

But then, this is how they're pitching it, after basically attributing its form to Ray's Arp-meets-Hofmann paintings:

Despite their furnishings being successfully received, Charles remained frustrated at the absence of suitable plywood molding technology -- a situation that was to alter when, in early 1943, the Eames' received a commission from the U.S. Navy to produce lightweight plywood leg splints -- the first ever fully three-dimensionally molded plywood structure. Embracing the opportunity to experiment with professional industrial molding equipment and high-strength waterproof adhesives, the Eames' created a series of hand-guided machine-made forms, structures and sculptures, including the present example, that must be regarded not solely as experimental industrial products, but as resolved artistic expressions that were to define the identity of post-war design.
So it's not a design study, or a manufacturing experiment. Or not only that, but a "resolved artistic expression," or as their ambitious mid-six-figure estimate would have it, "a highly important and unique sculpture."

Lot 176: A HIGHLY IMPORTANT AND UNIQUE SCULPTURE, 1943, est. 400,000 - $600,000 [christies]

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

post info

first published: June 8, 2012.

next older post:
Richteriana In The News Again

next newer post:
Thomas Pynchon's e-Book Trailer

recent projects, &c.


shanzhai_gursky_mb_thumb.jpg
It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
about | link

therealhennessy_tweet_sidebar.jpg
TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
about

sop_red_gregorg.jpg
Standard Operating Procedure
about | buy now, 284pp, $15.99

CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
about | buy now, 142pp, $12.99

weeksville_echo_sidebar.jpg
"Exhibition Space"
Mar 20 - May 8 @apexart, NYC


HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.


drp_04_gregorg_sidebar.jpg
Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

czrpyr_blogads.jpg
Canal Zone Richard
Prince YES RASTA:
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99

archives