Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thoroughly Modern Tiny

All that spaghetti and just one meatball.

On a recent - and increasingly unusual - free day, we headed up to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to see California Design, 1930-1965: "Living in a Modern Way", an exhibit of everything modern from California in the middle part of the last century.  I am not sure who curated this exhibit; it was rather small and a little scattered, but it suited the wacky tacky sensibility quite well.  I must say, I felt a guilty satisfaction as we strode by the hoards of folks lined up to see the Tim Burton exhibit.  The feeling quickly changed to pure excitement when we walked into the gallery and came face-to-gleaming-face with this 1930's Airstream trailer.

Sadly, we couldn't get close enough to get photos of the interior.

"Take it easy!"

From automobiles to clothing to plastic pitchers, the exhibit was composed of everyday objects.  It was great to see utilitarian pieces transformed into something artful; of course, these objects were allowed an elevated level of distinction because of the setting and thoughtful installation.  It seems, however that mid-20th Century California was such a great time/place for experimentation in form and function.  Consumer products of previous eras, however artful, seemed to be exercises in adornment and decoration.  "Modern" designers, however, had the freedom to play with color, line, shape, material, texture, and even ergonomics.

I actually have a few pieces in this pattern...I might have to start my own museum.

A stellar light fixture/mobile

I loved this bookrack/lamp that diffused the
uplighting by way of the suspended moon pendant.

Before I took any photographs in the exhibit, I asked one of the docents if photographs were allowed.  He responded in the affirmative and warned me against using the flash.  When I approached the "Eames House" (a full-scale, case study/diorama), another docent practically tackled me to prevent the photo I was snapping.  Sure, she was 5'2" and an AARP member in good standing, but she was fierce!  Fortunately, I captured the shot before she tried to confiscate my camera by slamming my face into the concrete.

The "Eames House" - a forbidden photo.

I loved seeing the 1962 Barbie Dream House immediately after the Eames House.
It was a great juxtaposition of highbrow and low brow -cerebral design versus everyday living.

How could one avoid being vain seated before at a vanity of this magnitude?

I have a thing for chairs.

A great desk from 1947


This 1930's era "Airline Chair," named for its aerodynamic lines was an IKEA forerunner.
It was mass produced and sold "ready to be assembled" by the consumer.

One of my favorite items was the Eames, bent-wood, toy elephant.

Every day objects were also included in the exhibit - radios, clocks, flatware, ray guns...
RAY GUNS?!?!?!
The "ray gun" (top-left) is actually an Opco Ice Gun, a personal ice crusher from 1935.

I saved my favorites for last.  I am a sucker for textiles and clothing from my favorite period in history.
I would like to order at least 10 yards of the hand-printed sombrero fabric from 1941.

Western wear!!!
I love western wear whether it comes from the 1930's (the dungarees and silk rodeo blouse on the left) or the 1950's (the ensemble on the right).

These 1940's hostess pajamas are indescribably cool.
Everything about them is pitch-perfect modern -
the color, the cut, the fact that the hostess is wearing pajamas!

The exhibit featured some incredible swim & play suits as well.

The his & hers lobster bathing ensembles by Catalina Swimwear (1941) were a highlight.

Some of my favorite items include this printed dress and this amazing, gathered, green-chintz, tiered skirt and midriff-baring top trimmed in white ric rac...that was actually A BATHING SUIT!!!  Coincidentally, Mary thinks a recreation of this ensemble should be my next sewing project. Hmmmm?

The Cole of California creation

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA

"California Design" runs October 1, 2011 through March 25, 2012.


Mr. Tiny


  1. GAH! *Dies of the awesome*
    I NEED those hostess pajamas. NEED.
    Lobster beachwear is also made of win, as are the sombrero prints.
    Fun exhibit! Gotta add it to my "must see" list.

  2. Ooooh! Love it! And never underestimate AARP members! Too funny! What a great exhibit!

  3. Lord have mercy! This exhibit looks amazing! I'm swooning over the clothing, especially the lobster number. can't wait to go.

  4. Too bad you didn't get there before the Airstream started melting.

  5. I think my head may just have exploded. I planned to start off my comment by listing the items I wanted one of each of, but by the time I got down to the Western wear it was all over. So suffice it so say, the desk, the sombrero fabric (!) and all the clothes. What an exhibit!

  6. Thank all for your comments!

    Lauren - you must make the pajamas!!! Then, you must throw a party, wear said pajamas, and invite me.

    Trixie - I'll never take a retired person's grit for granted again.

    Crystal Lee - it is definitely worth the price of admission. You've got to see the lobsters in person. It will be hard but try not to steal them!

    jkf - It does look like it's melting!

    Tasha - It sounds like your trip to CA was a whirlwind - I wish I could have directed you here before you had to go home. Next time you guys come out, we should plan an adventure!

  7. I have been wanting to go to this! Thanks for a preview. How stoked are you to sew some of the outfits you saw there!?