16 December 2013

California Design at the Queensland Gallery Brisbane


 Words: Saskia Edwards
Images: Jonathan Rae

Californian design; It may inspire thoughts of the Real Housewives clad in Juicy Couture toting a malnourished dog.

Really it’s more like the Mamas and the Papas’ California Dreaming has come alive. The California Design: Living in a Modern Way exhibition traces the Cali aesthetic from 1930 to 1965 through architecture, fashion and craft. It includes more than 250 objects from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibition highlights the material innovations of this epoch – the introduction of fibreglass, wire mesh and synthetic resigns. So many of the designs are seminal, still influencing modern aesthetics. I’m talking about the likes of Charles and Ray Eames, Frank Lloyd-Wright and Levi Strauss. It’s a timeless period.

Curator David Burnett says the exhibition is about conveying the “unique period of design history in the United States when art, design, craft and industry were in a creative dialogue in an effort to infuse everyday life with good design”.

But it’s not all just about superficial looks. The designs give an insight into the social and political period. The Cold War’s impact is obvious in all the streamlined cylindrical designs referencing the Space Race.

David says design mirrored the industrial advances of the time.

“Many of the items reflect the austerity of the war years but also the innovations that came out of the aerospace industries applied to a domestic sphere.

“Certainly the ‘atomic’ age is well profiled while the new leisure of homes and gardens as the centres of Californian domestic life is clearly shown.”

The exhibition makes you feel like you’re traversing the streets of Malibu in 1960. The sounds of the Beach Boys are a nice touch too. 





California Design: Living in a Modern Way is on at the Queensland Gallery until February 9, 2014.


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