Night at the museum

When it comes to Mid-century modernism, I was an early convert. Last night, I was treated to some major design porn at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (“Jewseum” if you use their Twitter handle) here in San Francisco. It was my first time there, and I’m not sure why I waited this long.


The exhibit is called “Designing Home: Jews and Midcentury Modernism” and runs through October 6, 2014 (so there’s still time for y’all to see it).


It highlights the roles of Jewish architects and designers in the post-WWII creation of a distinctly modern American domestic landscape. My brother is a designer and part of the Visual Media Alliance who put a special evening together that included a guided tour and talk by award-winning Bay Area designer Kit Hinrichs. Bro and I share a common love for all things Mid-century modern so we were like kids in a candy store bordering on diabetic fits during our visit.

I wanted to hoard EVERYTHING but sadly, you can’t do that at a museum.


The wake of anti-semitism and post-war population boom offered an unprecedented flourishing of opportunities for Jews. Acceptance and integration into American culture followed shortly. Throughout the museum floor, you see contributions of both well-known designers and architects, including many Bauhaus graduates. Among them…


I had NO IDEA that Breuer was Jewish. We sold a decent amount of his furniture at Chairish.

Here’s another famous piece from a design great I’ve admired since I was a wee lass.


Not Anni Albers as indicated (they had interesting placements of attributions for some reason) but George Nelson, whose very popular bubble lamp hangs in our dining room (and those of countless others).

Here are Anni’s beautiful weavings.


I learned about Pond Farm, an artist colony right here in the Bay Area (Guerneville) that started in the 40’s and ran until the 80’s.


There were eye bonerz textile pieces, including works by Ruth Adler Schnee who studied with Paul Klee in the early years.


My favorite Schnee piece, entitled “Backgammon,” a screen printed cotton warp and cotton and mohair weft:


My weaving urges intensified with this piece by Trude Guermonprez.


Beautiful and minimalist pottery by Marguerite Wildenhain, also a Bauhaus graduate who spent time at Pond Farm.


Stunning wallpaper by illustrator Saul Steinberg.


And then there are the graphic design greats, like Saul Bass, whose works include movie posters like “Anatomy of a Murder.”


Whimsical vinyl covers…


….and logos.  Can you recognize any of these?


These were designed by three of the most brilliant graphic designers in our lifetime: Saul Bass, Louis Danziger, and Paul Rand.

The evening ended with a talk by Kit Hinrichs. When I sat down in the audience and saw him approach the podium, I realized that he was the man in the first photo I took outside the museum.


I quickly walked up to him and showed him the shot. He laughed and said, “Oh that was you” and handed me his card when I told him I would send him the picture. Lucky timing.

Perhaps you know this logo:


He talked about the works of Paul Rand (famous for the IBM logo, among a host of others) and graphic design luninaries who influenced him throughout his career.

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His message  to the design community was clear. He encouraged them to be bold, take risks, and incorporate humor into their work.

So be it, Kit. I’m no designer, but this is how I like to live my life.


Contemporary Jewish Museum
736 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94703

Open daily except Wednesdays
11:00 am to 5:00 pm
11:00 am to 8:00 pm

Tip: Free First Tuesdays
Free admission on July 21, August 5, and September 2

The Midcentury Modernism exhibit runs through October 6, 2014.

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