The Eames' Appreciation of the World Through Common Objects

Eames Words exhibition wall© RCruger
-- "Eames' Words" exhibit wall at the A+D Museum.

“The Uncommon Beauty of Common Objects” is the underlying theme of an exhibit at the Architecture + Design Museum in Los Angeles, that fortunately has just been extended to February 20. Titled “Eames’ Words: The Guest Host Relationship,” the show displays an unlikely combination of objects – balls of twine, skateboards, and a Jeep. Perhaps designers Ray and Charles Eames are most renowned for their iconic mid-century chairs, but this intriguing exhibition reveals the couple's ideas and inspiration, from flowers to tumbleweed, as well as the man-made, from a barrel to bread.

Eames display of balls of twine© RCruger
“We’re tradesman because were really solving problems for other people or ourselves. The title of artist has to be learned.”

I spoke with the show’s co-curator/designer Deborah Sussman who’d worked with the Eames and wanted to convey their keen sense of the everyday and celebration of it. “Their view of life made ordinary things extraordinary,” she explained, pointing out items and reading the simple yet profound quotes covering the walls, pulled from “100 Quotes by Charles Eames,” a book edited by the Eames' grandson Eames Demetrios, Carla Hartman, and Sussman’s memory. She walked over to a display with dozens of scissors, shears used by hairdressers, nurses, chefs and more, marveling at the surprisingly endless styles and functions.

Deborah Sussman© RCruger
-- Deborah Sussman, co-curator of Eames' Words exhibit.

The E-shaped (as in “Eames”) shelves showcase tools, toys, a keg of nails, and computers to illustrate the value of objects and the wise philosophies that informed their work. “The role of the designer,” said Charles Eames, “is that of a very good, thoughtful host, all of whose energy goes into trying to anticipate the needs of his guests.”

Banana leaf tali plate© R.Cruger
-- The tali, from banana leaf to gold leaf.

“You can tell more about a country from its bread and soup than you can from its museums and concert halls.”

The banana leaf ‘tali’ seems an efficient and aesthetic plate to eat from, though ceramic versions, silver-plated and even gold talis exist for wealthy diners. The Eames’ thoughts and words still resonate 50 years later as innovative: “Beyond the age of information is the age of choices.”

Eames Words exhibit with tumbleweed© RCruger

“Art resides in the quality of doing. Process is not magic.”

This exhibit is part of the Getty Center’s “Pacific Standard Time” 60-museum initiative about LA art which features a few Eames-related shows. Their designs can be seen at the Eames Office, “Essential Eames: The Design of Knowledge” and at the LA County Museum of Art’s “California Design, 1930-1965: ‘Living in a Modern Way.” Also, schedule an appointment to see their 1500-square-foot prefab home build in 1949 which I recently described in Treehugger.

Eames chairs © RCruger
-- A collection of Eames' chairs for viewing Eames' films.

“We wanted to make the best for the most for the least.”

Upcoming events with A+D include Eames onScreen with Demetrios presenting a selection of Eames’ films on January 10. Also, a children’s workshop, ARkidECTURE at the Eames Office happens next Saturday, January 14, conducted by Carla Hartman, Eames’ granddaughter, to create an Eames ‘House of Cards' and a miniature paper chair.

If you missed the Eames documentary recently on PBS, it is streamed on the American Masters website.

The Eames' Appreciation of the World Through Common Objects
An exhibit about the pioneering mid-century designers illustrates the innovative ideas that inspired their work.