San Diego’s Mid-Century Artistic Legacy
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Mid-century has been the hottest design trend for the last 10 years. It is everywhere. I searched Craig's List and Ebay for mid-century and let's just say, people use the term VERY liberally. I mean, if you purchase an IKEA futon labled mid-century, then I have a pretty bottle of elixir I want to sell you.
But this does raise the question, what do we mean when we say mid-century? Well, all my Dwell-reading, Prius-driving 30-somethings, do I have a show for you! Two shows, actually. The first is the new exhibit at the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park. It's a retrospective featuring the work of Jerome and Evelyn Ackerman, an LA-based couple whose 50-year collaboration in decorative art and design helped define California modernism.
Which brings up another point: California's response to the mid-century movement was very specific. As Europe and the east coast of the US looked to the German Bauhaus movement, California artists took those same modernist elements (stark, clean lines, steel, chrome and leather, sleek and elegant) and added the inspiration of their natural environment. The beauty of the Southern California landscape, the proximity to Latin America, and California's light quality greatly influenced the artistic output of this region. These artists added wood, natural, organic shapes, and primary colors into a regional modernist vernacular. And San Diego was a hotbed of artistic output during this period, which brings me to the other show you should know about on our KPBS airwaves. We talked about San Diego's mid-century artistic legacy on These Days with local art enthusiast Dave Hampton. Hampton is the co-founder (with Steve Aldana and Ron Kerner) of the mid-century art collective Objects USA. The latter is a great resource for mid-century events, sales, and history in this region. Dave introduced us to artists like Jackson and Ellamarie Wooley and Ruth and Toza Radakovich. They all worked with the architects of the period, participated in the California Design shows in Pasadena, and built a community of artists known as the Allied Craftsmen.
If you're at all interested in mid-century art and design, then I highly recommend going to see the Ackerman exhibit at the Mingei - it opens this Sunday (3/39). Secondly, listen to this These Days show and this one also (it will be posted shortly)! You'll learn about California mid-century modernism and how the artistic and design elements of this period developed. You'll also learn about the great work that was coming out of San Diego. Visit the Objects USA site, and check out the happenings and resources here and here.
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