The World of Charles and Ray Eames is a major new exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery that explores the careers of Charles and Ray Eames, the influential American designers produced an extraordinary amount of work from their base known as the Eames Office. Over four decades, the Eameses and their collaborators and staff produced an array of pioneering work – from architecture, furniture, graphic and product design, to painting, drawing, film, sculpture, photography, multi-media installation and exhibitions. The World of Charles and Ray Eames is produced in collaboration with the Eames Office and many exhibits, never before displayed in the UK, are on loan from the Eames Family and Eames Office, as well as a range of public and private collections worldwide.
The work of the Eames is probably best known for their furniture and products, however this was just one aspect of their output. In post war America, The Eames like many others looked at ways to harness the potential of technology and science for the common good. What really attracted Charles and Ray Eames was problem solving, the Eames Office became a nerve centre where materials and ideas would be used to try to make the ‘American Dream’ a reality for a large number of people.
The exhibition brings together over 380 works and examines the world of Charles and Ray Eames through objects and projects produced during their lifetime, It features a wide range of documentation and contextual material from the professional archive of the Eames Office as well as artefacts from their personal collections. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Eames production is the way they use different ways of visual communication to present ideas, this multi-media approach is familiar to us now but the Eames were pioneers in this approach and developed ground-breaking installation projects for both corporate and government clients. They were also involved in spreading the word about the fledgling computer technologies and considering some of the implications of these technologies.
For all the ideas that drove them, the Eames were concerned about the practicalities of turning these ideas into reality. The furniture is a clear example of putting ideas into action, in the exhibition is the first moulded plastic chair created by the Eameses for MoMA’s International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design. The black leather chairs ,the Eames are famous for are at the other end of the spectrum evoking corporate comfort and splendour.
Other highlights include an experimental study for the moulded plywood nose cone of a military aircraft from The Museum of Modern Art, New York; full scale model of La Chaise (1948-1950); a range of prototype furniture from the Vitra Design Museum, Basel; two 3-screen slideshows and a wide selection of the Eameses’ innovative films from both the Eames Office and the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; a newly commissioned 1:50 scale model of Case Study Houses #8 and #9, produced by Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners; a large scale ‘model’ installation of Think, the multi-screen film presentation shown in the Ovoid Theatre of the IBM Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair in 1964-1965 recently restored by the Library of Congress, Washington D.C.; and two of the original production panels used to make the influential film Powers of Ten, also from the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Although the Eames did look at designs of other cultures, their focus was to present to the world a vision of America that was progressive, attractive and fun. The importance of this vision in the Cold War cannot be understated and was well understood by government agencies. The World of Charles and Ray Eames is a complex one with a wide range of pioneering work into creating a series of concepts of modern living. The models of the homes on display suggest an American suburban fantasy, however some of their practical solutions for furniture seem to offer a more universal outlook.
This unusual and intriguing exhibition offers an opportunity to assess the work of pioneering American couple who despite their prodigious output over for decades are relatively unknown in the United Kingdom. Their multi media approach as a tool for education and the understanding of complex concepts were certainly revolutionary and deserves greater recognition.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
If you would like further information or book tickets, visit the Barbican website here
The World of Charles and Ray Eames
Barbican Art Gallery
21 October 2015 – 14 February 2016
Saturday to Wednesday, 10am – 6pm
Thursday & Fridays, 10am – 9pm
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