Monday, March 5, 2012

Judith Gura's "Design After Modernism"

Judith Gura is a professor of design history and theory, directing the design history program at the New York School of Interior Design. She is the author of critically-praised books on interior design, Scandinavian furniture and furniture styles. Her articles have appeared in the country’s most prominent design and arts publications, and she lectures frequently on a variety of design subjects. She has degrees from Cornell University and the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Design After Modernism: Furniture and Interiors 1970-2010, and reported the following:
From Page 99:
Unquestionably different from anything then available, the furniture self-consciously replicated elements of recognizable architectural styles, using bright color and laminates in provocative forms that ignored all preconceptions of good taste, and often tossed functionalism aside. It was meant for shock value as much as for use – and to poke fun at more conventional objects. Having made its statement with considerable skill, and plenty of international media attention, Memphis disbanded in 1988.

Postmodernism did not translate comfortably into interiors, since the designs were often impractical, and visually disruptive in a room with other furniture. But it produced some notable works, including Ettore Sottsass’ iconic bookshelves, and Robert Venturi’s laminated-and-lacquered plywood chairs parodying eighteenth-and nineteenth-century period styles. Postmodern design reached the broadest consumer market in decorative accessories like vases, candlesticks and tableware that ranged from charming to kitschy. Despite their limitations, however, the designs of the Postmodern movement never failed to draw attention.
Page 99 of Design After Modernism deals with the Postmodern movement and the Memphis group, the avant-garde Italian collaborative that produced its most provocative furniture designs. Postmodernism was the most clearly-defined and highly visible of the movements that followed midcentury modernism, but it was not the only one. The premise of my book is that a diversity of design directions, both simultaneous with and succeeding the decades from 1940 to 1970 show that there is more than one meaning to the word “modern” and the label “Modernism”. It posits that modernism has been reinvented in the 21st century -- by developments that include innovative materials and advanced technology, the erasure of national boundaries, the blurring of barriers between design and art, and the concern for ecologically-sensitive design -- and suggests a reevaluation and redefinition of the term to accommodate these changes. The objective: to reach a clearer understanding of what we mean when we call something modern.
Learn more about the book and author at Judith Gura's website.

--Marshal Zeringue