Friday, January 28, 2011

Art Deco Screens

I've always liked room screens. In fact, one of my life's dreams is to own at least one. And when I was younger, I dreamed of a studio apartment because that was the only way I could conceive of why you would need a screen as a room divider. (I grew up in a rural area--I might have romanticized the idea of a studio a bit.) Now, I just try and make excuses to find one to separate my messy desk from the rest of our living room.

If I could have these room screens, by Jean Dunand and Séraphin Soudbinine, I would be a very happy woman. Seeing as it's located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I don't think I'll be able to acquire it any time soon. It was made for Solomon Guggenheim, further confirming my inability to every own it, or its equal.

Dunand was a French Art Deco artist, and pretty much considered the master of lacquer in his time. He also managed to incorporate eggshells into his work, which I find to be pretty awesome. These are a set titled "Pianissimo and Fortissimo" Pianissimo is on the left, Fortissimo is on the right. They were made for the music room--makes sense, right?

I love the stylized figure, the curling cloud-like forms, and the stylized buildings, or pilings, or whatever they are. I'm not sure what they are supposed to be, but according to the page on the Met's website, they are stylized rocks. I just love how sumptuous lacquer looks. Shiny, rich, warm, and gorgeous. It's an intense process, but Dunand was a master of it. His inclusion of mother of pearl and eggshells on the screens highlights the shimmering aspects of the lacquer, adding depth to already rich panels.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

C'est Fini!

My thesis is basically finished. I have to wait on some comments from someone, but other than that, I am done. All that is left is to print, bind, and turn in. I feel like I should be doing last minute tweaking, but that just leads to trouble. In honor of finishing, I'd like to turn back to Howard Kottler. He got a brief mention in my thesis, and in my two paragraphs devoted to him, I remember just how much I love his work. I was also happy that when I was at the Museum of Art and Design in December I was able to see pieces from his "American Supperware" series. Always clever, always biting, and always fun, I still get excited about his work. To quote Love Actually, it's true love, and true love lasts a lifetime.

This time, I share with you his American Gothic plate. Well, one of his in the series. (Fun fact: Kottler liked to number his plates 1/10, no matter what number in the edition it was, or how many he made in the set.) This one is from the Renwick's collection and is called "American Gothic: Playmate Conditioner." As with his other works, Kottler created a decal from the famous painting by Grant Wood, but with a twist on the original. Here, the man's face is blanked out, a fuzzy flesh-colored spot. The rest of the image is exactly what we would expect from the painting, but we are left to wonder what this means. Are men not important? What is the relationship between these two people that his identity is completely obscured? Who are the people in society who are considered to be "faceless"? These are questions to consider.

The title, too, is incredibly important. Kottler was as playful with his words as he was with his interpretation of ceramics and craft. I have always assumed that "Playmate Conditioner" refers to a variety of things, ranging from Playboy bunnies and "Playmates" to Kottler's own homosexuality and interest in men as playmates. A faceless man could mean a lot in either of those scenarios. I would love to go back and read more about Kottler, but now it is time to turn my attention to job hunting. Let me know if you hear of anything in the DC area!

Photo credit: American Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution