MAD's Pathmakers Exhibition of Midcentury Craft April 28 - Sept 27

Apr 30 2015 - 11:13am

Materials are the Message at MAD's Pathmakers Exhibition of Midcentury Craft

Tuesday, April 28, 2015, by Patrick Sisson

Furniture designer Vivian Beer in her studio (2004). Photo by Mariana Rosas-Garcia, courtesy of Vivian Beer.

Media theorist Marshall McLuhan famously said "the medium is the message," but sadly in the world of visual arts, not all mediums are judged the same way. With Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today, a new exhibition featuring a wide-ranging display of more than 100 works in textiles, ceramics, and metal, New York's Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) showcases an alternative history of creativity and artistry that runs contrary to the conventional midcentury narrative, largely dominated by painting, sculpture and architecture. And, men -- this new survey provides insights into the work of female designers such as textile innovator and fabric artist Dorothy Liebes and Hella Jongerius, whose original designs for the United Nations Delegates' Lounge, including a curtain of ceramic beads, has been recreated for the exhibit.

"Pathmakers places women at the center of the midcentury modernist narrative, and makes a powerful case for the importance of craft and design media as professional pathways," stated Glenn Adamson, MAD's Nanette L. Laitman Director.

The exhibit draws an arc between postwar innovators and Scandinavian designers, such as: Rut Bryk (a massive wall relief on display showcases her skills with prints and ceramics), Marianne Strengell (the exhibit features her Forecast Rug, an all-aluminum textile developed for ALCOA), Sheila HicksLenore Tawney and Alice Kagawa Parrott. By connecting their work with modern practitioners, such as Gabriel Ann Maher, whose videos and garments tackles issues of performance and gender, and Vivian Beer, the show reinforces the power of there materials and the continuing influence of early artists and designers.

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Ruth Asawa and her children in front of one of her massive hanging sculptures, 1957. Photo by Imogen Cunningham

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Hella Jongerius' Knots & Beads Curtain (2015), part of her original design for the UN Delegates' Lounge, featuring hand-knotted cotton rope, porcelain beads, powder-coated steel and metal sleeves. Photo by Frank Oudeman

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Forecast Rug for ALCOA, an aluminum textile designed by Marianne Strengell. Courtesy Senator John Heinz History Center

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A scene from artist Gabriel A. Maher's DE___SIGN video (2014). Courtesy of the artist

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A prototype theatre curtain for the DuPont Pavilion at the New York World's Fair, 1964, designed by Dorothy Liebes. Photo by Eva Heyd

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The Surface Tension Lamp (2014) creates its own "shade" by blowing a soap bubble around an LED light. Courtesy Front Design

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Fiber and collage artist Lenore Tawney in her Coenties Slip studio, New York, 1958. Photo by David Attie Courtesy of Lenore G. Tawney Foundation

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Resilient Chair Frame (1948-1949) by Eva Zeisel. Courtesy of Jean Richards

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Rut Bryk Ceramic Collection Kakkonen. Photo by Niclas Warius

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Hanging #57, ca. 1957 by Olga de Amaral. Photo by Eva Heyd