Yesterday, I attended Press Day for LACMA’s new show, California Design, 1930-1965: “Living in a Modern Way.” With the intent of studying and showcasing the Golden State’s huge role in mid-century modern design, it features over 350 objects that range from textiles to furniture and stationery to toys. Yes, the Eameses, Neutra, Schindler, Magnusson Grossman, and other stars of the movement are present–and how–but the show isn’t merely a greatest-hits collection. Dividing the exhibition into sections of Shaping, Making, Living, and Selling, curators Wendy Kaplan and Bobbye Tigerman provide a balanced look at influences and influencers. In addition to the availability of new materials (molded plywood, plastic, fiberglass), technologies (aerospace, nuclear energy), and possibilities (travel, surfing), they stress the access and acceptance of ideas from Latin America and Asia.
From a Giant Robot point of view, mid-century was the moment when Pan Asian and Asian-American creators and cultures first made a dent in mainstream cool. It makes perfect sense when you see something like Ruth Asawa’s S.250 made out of steel wire across the way from La Gardo Tackett’s architectural pottery. Vaguely ethnic shapes and aesthetics are re-imagined in a modern way, cleaned-up but not necessarily sanitized. Teapots, textiles, folding screens, and many other pieces with similar multicultural lineage are scattered around the floor.