Monday, April 12, 2010

Nocturne Radio

Now that the thesis proposal is turned in, I have nothing to do but wait. Okay, that's not really true, I have lots of other work to attend to, but when reading
this today, I was reminded of seeing a version at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Which in turn reminded me of the Nocturne Radio, also at the MIA. (If you give a girl a Bauhaus designer...)

I know that as you're looking at the incredibly blue picture above, you're not overwhelmed. To be honest, neither was I as I memorized facts about it in Survey of Dec Arts 2 at this time last year. Made by Walter Dorwin Teague in 1937, manufactured by the Sparton Corporation, made of glass. Yeah, sure. It's a radio. And I was told it was a giant radio. The measurements on the MIA website list it as "H. 46 x W. 43 1/4 x D. 12 in." But that still doesn't really give you any idea as to how imposing, startling, and life-changing this radio is.

This radio is part of the Northwest Modernism Collection, which is tucked nicely away on the third floor of the institute. I was visiting this fall and looked forward to seeing iconic works by designers I'd come to love over the previous year. But none of this prepared me for what would happen when I would turn the corner into the exhibit space and find myself confronted with this marvel of design. I was speechless. The radio was breathtaking. It was huge, but not imposing. The reflective glass front was inviting, not repelling. I wanted to touch it and absorb all its perfect design glory through my skin. This sounds disturbing, doesn't it? But I was enthralled. It was a religious experience. Sadly, it was against a wall, so I could not fully appreciate it in the round, but I leaned as close as possible to absorb every aspect of it. From the sides and the front--I couldn't pull myself away. But for my deep abiding respect for the rules of "no touching!" in museums, I would have hugged this radio. There are other iconic modern pieces in this collection, and it covers a range of things from American to European to Arts and Crafts to Art Deco. But none struck me or affected me so deeply or so powerfully as the Nocturne Radio.

According to the entry about this radio, it was "intended to appeal to men, who supposedly would be enthralled by its futuristic form and space-age technology." Perhaps I have the same taste of a man of the 1930s, but that's fine by me.