Mid-Century: "Good Design" in Europe and America, 1850-1950 | Smart Museum of Art | Museums | Chicago Reader

Mid-Century: "Good Design" in Europe and America, 1850-1950 Member Picks Free All Ages Recommended Closing (Theater and Galleries)

When: July 8-Sept. 5 2010

The most interesting thing about this show is its banality. Many of the pieces on display have long since gone from cutting-edge to commonplace to cliched. Bold in 1946, the molded plywood Eames chairs have become cultural staples, and many of the other furnishings would be entirely at home at Ikea. Even a pair of pleasingly odd 1930s constructivist photomontage ads by Czech architect Karel Lodr--rooms arranged at dynamic angles, healthy young things tipped every which way, engaged in vigorous sport--evokes a familiar paradise. The vision of vibrant, well-designed collective living Lodr and others here propounded is what we live in now. Their modernist future is our reality. In part, "Mid-Century" is about the domestication of Utopia--the creation of the aesthetic box that's been built around us. That can be an oppressive realization, though there's also something moving in the thought that we're living inside someone's dream. My favorite piece in the exhibit is "Problems of a Chair Design" by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a quick drawing on a sheet of creased paper in which he tosses off the smooth curves of a chair form that's now ubiquitous. Looking at it, you can almost see today's world as a shadow in his mind. --Noah Berlatsky

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