edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 2/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Baldwin Kingrey: Midcentury Modern in Chicago
by John Brunetti
Chicago: Wright, $45 paperbound
123 pages, 78 illustrations (30 color)
Amid the recent popularity of modernist furniture, textiles, and accessories, two Massachusetts stores noteworthy for selling such goods to the public have garnered considerable press coverage: Rapson and Design Research. Rapson opened in Boston in 1950; Design Research in nearby Cambridge in 1953. Both were preceded, however, by Baldwin Kingrey, opened in 1947 in Chicago by architect Harry Weese and his wife, Kitty Baldwin Weese—the sister of interior designer Ben Baldwin—along with their partner, Jody Kingrey.
John Brunetti's book colorfully recounts how Baldwin Kingrey built its reputation on the chairs of Charles and Ray Eames, Bruno Mathsson, and Eero Saarinen; the stools and vases of Alvar Aalto; the wooden bowls of James Prestini; the fabrics of Alexander Girard; and the lamps of Harry Weese himself, all of which the store offered at affordable prices. (An Aalto stool sold for a mere $6.25.) In addition, Baldwin Kingrey carried glassware meant for the chemistry lab and exhibited work by artists and designers such as Herbert Bayer, Ward Bennett, Harry Bertoia, Adolph Gottlieb, László Moholy-Nagy, and Edward Weston.
"Everybody who was a young architect had to go there to see new things. . .Baldwin Kingrey was a fresh breath of air," Chicago architect Walter Netsch recalls. That freshness is well communicated in this book, the first title out from the Wright auction house's imprint.
Dan Flavin: A Retrospective
by Michael Govan and Tiffany Bell
New Haven: Yale University Press with the Dia Art Foundation, $45 paperbound
208 pages, 190 illustrations (150 color)
Dan Flavin: The Complete Lights, 1961–1996
by Michael Govan and Tiffany Bell
New Haven: Yale University Press with the Dia Art Foundation, $150
432 pages, 1,238 illustrations (1,178 color)
In 1961, three decades after it was introduced for floodlighting and advertising, fluorescent light became an unlikely artistic medium in the hands of Dan Flavin. A retrospective of his work recently appeared at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and opens February 27 at the Museum of Modern Art, Fort Worth, before traveling to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Here are two handsome and informative versions of the show's catalog—one presumably for the fan, another for the fanatic. Both versions offer the same essays, interviews, autobiographical sketch, list of exhibitions, chronology, and bibliography. The larger book also includes an illustrated catalog of 697 light sculptures actually fabricated by Flavin and an appendix of 78 pieces of "undetermined status."
Herman Miller: The Purpose of Design
by John R. Berry
New York: Rizzoli, $60
272 pages, 250 illustrations (150 color)
In this book, John Berry, whose 16 years with Herman Miller included a stint as vice president of corporate communications, here communicates very clearly the qualities that have made the company—founded in 1905 as Star Furniture—special. Foremost among these qualities, of course, is a commitment to design, beginning with the 1931 hiring of Gilbert Rohde as chief designer and amplified after Rohde's death by the 1945 hiring of George Nelson as director of design. Nelson in turn brought Charles and Ray Eames, Alexander Girard, and Isamu Noguchi to the firm, and what followed was artistic glory rivaled only by the remarkable stable of talent at Knoll (established by Hans and Florence Knoll in 1938).
But Berry doesn't just present a detailed catalog of Herman Miller designs (some favorites, however, are omitted). He also examines the company's investigations into ergonomics, facility management, workplace function, corporate identity and graphics, and universal access. For example, Berry describes the enlightened Scanlon Plan, adopted by the company in 1950, which allowed Herman Miller employees to begin the rare practice of sharing the company's information and profits. The concluding chapter, "Things to Learn from Herman Miller," would be instructive not only to designers, but also to businessmen in almost any field. There's a brief bibliography, an index, and a foreword by Steven K. Hamp, president of the Henry Ford Foundation.
What They're Reading...
Robert D. Kleinschmidt
Founding partner of Powell/Kleinschmidt and member of the Interior Design Hall of Fame
by Matilda McQuaid, with a foreword by Frei Otto
London and New York: Phaidon, $75
240 pages, 285 illustrations (200 color)
This 2003 book presents 32 projects from the past decade by the 47-year-old Japanese architect. Some are prefabricated, and all spring from the Japanese tradition of building with economy. But instead of using traditional, natural materials such as bamboo, Ban often employs manufactured versions such as cardboard tubes. Kleinschmidt says he finds in these designs "refreshing proof that true elegance is not dependent on the use of lavish materials, but arises from restraint and lack of excess."