A rather compelling exhibition currently running at the ArtScience Museum which I was able to visit at the kind invitation of the museum is one which takes an in-depth look into the creative geniuses that are Charles and Ray Eames, long considered to be the first couple of design. The exhibition, Essential Eames: A Herman Miller Exhibition, which runs from 29 June 2013 to 5 January 2014 and is co-presented by renowned furniture maker Herman Miller and the ArtScience Museum in collaboration with the Eames Office, is one curated by the couple’s grandson Eames Demetrios based on a book he wrote, An Eames Primer.
The exhibition, which is certainly a must visit for anyone with a keen interest in the art of creative design, and for anyone else who takes delight in seeing and gaining insights into well-designed everyday objects and design concepts, includes a showcase of very recognisable furniture pieces designed by the couple – one which also provides an appreciation of the couple’s keen sense in the exploitation of the properties of different materials for use in their designs. The materials used range from fabrics, metals to moulded plywood – a technique Charles Eames himself developed and perfected in making moulded plywood splints in 1942 for the U.S. Navy during World War II. The technique was employed in the making of the iconic Lounge Chair Wood originally designed in 1945 for the Barclays Hotel in New York.
One moulded wood piece which did also catch my eye was a moulded plywood glider seat – designed in 1943 for the U.S. Navy, which was also to help the Eameses master the moulding of plywood. The seat on display we were told is currently valued at US $1 million.
Besides the moulded plywood chairs – of which I am a huge fan of for the eye-catching and clean forms, there are also furniture made of other materials including metals such as the wire-chair, designed to be lightweight and for outdoor use.
Interestingly, there also are several timeless furniture pieces from the Herman Miller furniture collection including the Nelson Marshmallow Sofa which was designed in 1956 by George Nelson and Irving Harper, using injection plastic discs which an inventor thought could be produced inexpensively and was durable. Nelson, who was the Director of Design at Herman Miller under whose supervision Charles and Ray Eames was to come under,arranged 18 of the discs on a steel frame to create the Marshmallow sofa which Herman Miller was to manufacture.
Beyond furniture, there is also much to discover at the exhibition’s other galleries about the range of the creative genius of the couple – who met while Charles was teaching at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan and Ray was a student, inlcuding what they applied in architecture, exhibition design, toy making, photography, film and philosophy. In architecture, we are able to have a look at the “Eames House” or “Case Study House No. 8” – designed by the couple as part of the Case Study House programme for John Entenza’s Arts & Architecture magazine. The couple was, in 1949, to build the house they designed – for use as their home and studio – designed “for a married couple working in design and graphic arts, whose children were no longer living at home” which “would serve as a background for life in work and with nature as a shock absorber.”
The range of toys the Eames produced include the well-known House of Cards for which visitors can try their hands at. Other interactive activities at the exhibition include Essential Play where visitors can create their own small scale furniture, a Materials Trail, and a animal mask making activity for the young.
One exhibit which will certainly catch the attention of the visitor is at the Mathematica gallery where based on the original 1961 exhibit at the California Museum of Science and Industry where it remained on continuous display for 37 years are exhibits which explains complex mathematical concepts through simple forms. Here the visitor will find the mathematical concept of the Moebius band – a one-sided surface with only one side.
Of the exhibits which I must say shows the range that the creative genius of the couple extended to, my personal favourite was the photographic work of Charles Eames. He certainly is one with a keen eye for photography and in the gallery – we see the clean and uncluttered images which is of great appeal to me. More information on the exhibition can be found at the ArtScience Museum’s website.
Besides the visit to Essential Eames, the programme also included a visit to another must-see exhibition Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb, for which I already had the pleasure of seeing. Details of my previous visit to that exhibition can be found in a previous post. Another part of the programme I should not forget to mention was lunch – which was most kindly provided by SweetSpot Deli, which serves New York style deli sandwiches generously packed with fillings. My favourite was the corned beef. SweetSpot Deli opens from 8 am to 11 pm Sundays to Thursdays, and 8 am to 12 am Fridays, Saturdays and on the eve of public holidays and is located the Bay Level #01-30 The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.