Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Domestic Designs to Adore and Delight

Horn Back Chair with Spindles and Low Curving Arms (c.1960) by Sam Maloof

When discussing the development of the Los Angeles Art scene, the avant-garde of conceptual art or the emergence of minority artists rightfully command significant attention, but there was a quieter innovation underway out in the Pomona Valley.

"The House That Sam Built" is an exhibit at the Huntington Museum featuring the creativity of the Pomona school in developing a modern sensibility to those art forms frequently classified as the "decorative" arts, such as furniture design or ceramics. This movement was led by Sam Maloof, the great furniture designer, who brought a strong aesthetic of lyric modernism to functional craftsmanship. His influence dominated Los Angeles decorative design and spread out becoming a distinctive late-20th century style.

I always get a laugh when I see the Pomona school being distinguished from the LA scenes, as if it were someplace off among the redwoods or in the remote Sierras. Sure, if you take your Southern California geography directions from Bugs Bunny and make an ill-advised turn at Rancho Cucamonga. ;-)

Chair after Hans Wegner (1952) by Sam Maloof

I'm pleased that the Huntington has put together a strong exhibit to showcase this very influential school of design. Maloof and his students are just as much a part of the LA aesthetic as anything turned out of the Ferus Gallery in the 1960s. It's a fine part of the Pacific Standard Time exhibition.

And the scope is exquisite and extensive. There's even a Maloof chair in which visitors are welcomed to sit. It was divine!!! I didn't want to get up. I need to win the lottery or something to buy a Maloof chair to bring home. ;-)

Free-Standing Cradle (1992, design form 1975) by Sam Maloof

Yeah, there were many fine examples of Maloof's craft, but the exhibit showcased plenty of other renowned Pomona Valley decorative artists. I could fill up this post with dozens of photos, but here's a light sampling of works on display.

Enamel works by Jean Goodwin Ames
Temptation (1948)
Star Angel (1951)

Stoneware ceramics (c.1950) from Ward Youry

Ceramic Sculptures by Betty Davenport Ford
Running Boar (1947)
Ferrets (1952)

Stoneware ceramics (c.1950s) by Harrison McIntosh

My usual disclaimer that my photos don't do justice to the subjects needs to be strongly emphasized in regards to this show. A major element to Pomona Valley design is crafting the decorative object so as to have it "own the space." The detailed selecting or shaping of the material into a functional decorative art work cannot be properly conveyed by an amateur photographer. This show must be attended in person to be truly appreciated.

Here are a couple vids featuring Maloof.


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