Saturday, June 18, 2011


As we continue to explore important aspects in history effecting modern and mid-century modern design certain unifying themes will continue to arise. One of these themes is the reaction and evolution of the arts as a result of social and economic factors.

This couldn't hold more truth than with the modernist movement (1920-1960's). Due to a paradigm shift in the 19th and early 20th centuries modernism became a major revolt against conservative aspects of society and art such as realism and romanticism. It's impact was a reshaping of old ways to new more efficient ways through a clarity of meaning and a re-examining of every aspect of daily life. Truly the concepts of minimalism and absolutes define modernism.

In order to understand the modernist movement you must also understand the post-modernist movement. Postmodernism came as a bold reaction against the modernist. The perspective of the post modernist was skeptic towards society and the blanket ideals of a modernistic world that saw things as either one thing or the other. To me postmodernism came in and filled in the blanks so to speak of modernism. Where once things were either black or white now grey and
color would exist.

Some of what we have already reviewed will fall within the context of the Modernist Movement including Bauhaus. However it also encompassed several other important movements in the arts. Some of these movements that I consider to be most impacting including Bauhaus are American Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau and Art Deco and Mid Century Modern.

Though the modernist movement is broad in the since that it reached many facets from politics to philosophy, we will primarily examine its impact in relation to design.

Although just on the cusp of the Modernist Movement, American Arts and Crafts (1900-1915) being a nod to the similar British movement, embraced the theory of nature and home and saw influences well into the 1930's.
Overlapping with similarities to the Bauhaus, American Arts and Crafts produced solid and entirely handcrafted objects. Its hallmark was Mission Style furniture and designs known for horizontal and vertical lines usually in an oak finish. Arts and Crafts was in direct rebellion from Victorian era complexity and industrial mass production of home goods. Simplicity is once again the focus tying together this and other interpretations of modern ideals. Here is one of the first chairs attributed to the mission style by A.J. Forbes around 1894 (well before the movement gained it's popularity) for San Francisco's Swedenborgian Church.

Art Nouveau though not strictly modern was an important part of the
timeline of transition into modernism and more specifically helped initiate the arst and crafts movement. This is true with American Art Nouveau (1890-1910) primarily demonstrated through the designs of ceramics and glass, drawing also from Japanese influences that leant to the creations of notable designers such as Van Briggle and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Their unique interpretations in their work began to obscure the line between fine art and decorative art.

Emerging from it's origins in Paris, American Art Deco (1920-1940) can be broken into two decades of distinct and different designs. This divide came as a result of the Stock Market crash of 1929. Prior to that time outlandish and exotic designs characterized by curves and enticing luxury lead the Deco movement. After 1929 a switch to a futuristic angular feel with streamlined culminations dominated main stream. Art Deco was also very influential in the architecture of its time including such buildings as the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center. Despite the differing versions of Art Deco, elements and trends from this movement are very distinguishable and continue to appear in modern design. Because of its obsession with the Buck Rogers brand of "future", later lending "atomic" elements to mid-century modern and retro designs, this period in many ways is still ahead of it's time.

The final and one of the most important chapters of the Modernist Movement is the Mid Century Modern era. I feel this particular style deserves it's own section and so will be visited in our next post.

Many exciting and innovative expressions of design can be attributed to the modernist movement and the surge of change it brought to the world. With these primary examples there remain countless advances and innovations still influential today.

Signing off for now,

No comments:

Post a Comment