Wendy Kaplan Editor
The MIT Press, in association with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Cambridge, MA, Los Angles, CA, 2011, English
Nonfiction, Interior Design; Nonfiction, Architecture; Nonfiction, Graphic Design; Nonfiction, Product/Industrial Design; Nonfiction, Fashion Design
9.5 x 12 inches, hardcover, 360 pages, 350 illustrations
ISBN: 9780262016070
Suggested Retail Price: $60.00

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From the Publisher. In 1951, designer Greta Magnusson Grossman observed that California design was “not a superimposed style, but an answer to present conditions. . . . It has developed out of our own preferences for living in a modern way.” California design influenced the material culture of the entire country, in everything from architecture to fashion. This generously illustrated book, which accompanies a major exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is the first comprehensive examination of California’s midcentury modern design. It begins by tracing the origins of a distinctively California modernism in the 1930s by such European émigrés as Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, and Kem Weber; it finds other specific design influences and innovations in solid-color commercial ceramics, inspirations from Mexico and Asia, new schools for design training, new concepts about leisure, and the conversion of wartime technologies to peacetime use (exemplified by Charles and Ray Eames’s plywood and fiberglass furniture).

The heart of California Design is the modern California home, famously characterized by open plans conducive to outdoor living. The layouts of modernist homes by Pierre Koenig, Craig Ellwood, and Raphael Soriano, for example, were intended to blur the distinction between indoors and out. Homes were furnished with products from Heath Ceramics, Van Keppel-Green, and Architectural Pottery as well as other, previously unheralded companies and designers. Many objects were designed to be multifunctional: pool and patio furniture that was equally suitable indoors, lighting that was both task and ambient, bookshelves that served as room dividers, and bathing suits that would turn into ensembles appropriate for indoor entertainment.

California Design includes 350 images, most in color, of furniture, ceramics, metalwork, architecture, graphic and industrial design, film, textiles, and fashion, and ten incisive essays that trace the rise of the California design aesthetic.

Catalogue of the exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, “California Design, 1930–1965: ‘Living in a Modern Way,’” October 1, 2011–June 3, 2012.

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Paul Makovsky

Feeling depressed about design these days? Then the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art’s catalogue accompanying an exhibition of the same name, “California Design 1930–1965: Living in a Modern Way” (on view through June 3, 2012), will certainly cheer you up. Sure, the seeds of midcentury California modernism were sown in the years immediately preceding World War II—just think of the furniture of Kem Weber or the architecture of Rudolf Schindler—but it was really only after the war with the booming postwar economy that the new aesthetic really blossomed, a period that produced talents as Julius Shulman, the Eameses, Alvin Lustig, and Pierre Koenig. The book also digs up obscure designers like Arlene Fisch, a jewelry designer who combined silver with colorful enamels; Doyle Lane, an Los Angeles-based African American craftsman who worked mainly in ceramics; and Olga Lee, a textile designer who was married to Milo Baughman, a furniture designer who also figures prominently in the show. You’ll come away thinking, what happened to American design in the decades since?

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