...With their 1997 exhibition The Work of Charles and Ray Eames the Vitra Design Museum staged one of the first major Charles and Ray Eames retrospectives Twenty years later they return to two of the 20th century's most important creatives with An Eames Celebration: less of Charles and Ray, and more of the diversity, depth and continuing relevance of their work... That it is 20 years since the Vitra Design Museum last dedicated an exhibition to Charles and Ray Eames shouldn't be taken as an indication in a lack of interest in the subject, far from it, as Museum Director Mateo Kries points out their collection of Eames prototypes and models is one of the cornerstones of the museum; much more the number of other possible themes combined with a desire to always explore the new meant it simply was never a consideration...
Charles & Ray Eames
Charles Eames (born 1907 in St. Louis/USA; died 1978 in St. Louis/USA) studied architecture at Washington University in St. Louis and in 1930 opened his own office together with Charles M. Gray. In 1935 he founded a second architectural firm with Robert T. Walsh. After receiving a fellowship in 1938 from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, he moved to Michigan and assumed a teaching position in the design department the following year. In 1940, Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen won first prize for their joint entry Organic Chair (also known as Conversation Chair) in the competition "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" organized by the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMa). During the same year, Eames became head of the department of industrial design at Cranbrook. In 1941 he married Ray Kaiser.
Ray Eames (née Bernice Alexandra Kaiser, born 1912 Sacramento/USA; died 1988), attended the May Friend Bennet School in Millbrook, New York, and continued her studies in painting under Hans Hofmann through 1937. During this year she exhibited her work in the first exhibition of the American Abstract Artists group at the Riverside Museum in New York. She matriculated at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1940 and married Charles Eames the following year.
Charles Eames and Bernice Alexandra Kaiser first met at Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1940 and married in 1941. In the same year the pair moved to Los Angeles and established their own design studio Eames Office. Following their work with plywood for the US military it came as no surprise that their first furniture creations were also plywood; for example design chairs such as the DCW and LCW and accessories such as their folding screen or their Eames Elephant. In the late 1940s the Eames started to seriously experiment with modern materials, including fibreglass resin. Apart from their natural desire to test modern technology, the step was also true to one of Charles Eames' mottos: "The most of the best to the greatest number of people for the least".
The Organic chair produced in 1940 by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen had been their first attempt at a fibreglass chair, however it was not until the 1950s that the technology became available to produce such chairs in large quantities. The fibreglass armchair and sidechair ranges from Charles and Ray Eames, including such classics as the Eames DSR, DAR or DAW were the most obvious fruits of that period. In 1993 Vitra switched from fibreglass resin to the more environmentally friendly recyclable polypropylene for the production of the, now, plastic armchair and plastic side chair ranges. 1956 saw the creation of one of the most easily recognisable of all Charles and Ray Eames's work: the Eames Lounge chair and Ottoman - a modern interpretation of the classic English Gentleman's Club chair. Following the success of their Lounge chair Charles and Ray Eames again switched material with their aluminium chair range (eg. ES 117, EA 119), before in 1960 they undertook one of their most famous commissions - creating lobby chairs and stools for the Rockefeller Centre in New York by Time Inc. The resulting walnut Eames stools and the Eames Lobby Chairs ES 104, ES 105 and ES 106 remaining amongst the most iconic of mid 20th century American design. From a design career that spanned three decades, Charles and Ray Eames left the world a rich heritage of designer furniture and design philosophy that continues to motivate, excite and enthral designers, consumers and critics alike.
In addition to the development of furniture, Charles and Ray Eames were also active in other creative fields. From 1955 they worked as photographers and film makers, in 1964-65, they were responsible for the IBM pavilion at the World Exhibition in New York, in 1969 they contributed to the exhibition "Qu'est-ce que le design?" at the The Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and in 1973 the MoMA new York presented "Furniture by Charles Eames". In 1964 Charles Eames received the honorary doctorate from the Pratt Institute, New York and from 1970-71 held the Charles Eliot Norton Chair at Harvard University. Charles Eames died in Saint Louis in 1978, Ray Eames in 1988. Over the course of their three decades of career, Charles and Ray Eames have left the world a rich heritage of design furniture and a design philosophy which still inspires and fascinates designers, customers and critics alike today.
The legacy of Charles and Ray Eames
The collaboration between Charles and Ray Eames and Vitra started in a, somewhat, unconventional way: but ultimately proved very successful for both sides. During his first visit to the United States in 1953, Vitra founder Willi Fehlbaum was in a taxi when he saw a chair in a shop window that attracted his attention. He stopped the taxi to take a closer look at the chair and learned it was a Charles and Ray Eames Plywood Chair. Fascinated and delighted by the Eames chair design, Fehlbaum immediately spoke with the producer - Hermann Miller - to acquire the rights for furniture production. In 1957, Vitra was granted the license to manufacture the designer furniture by Charles and Ray Eames. In 1984, Vitra received the rights to all Charles and Ray Eames products for Europe and the Middle East - not just Vitra chairs, but also complementary items such as the Eames Hang it all, the Eames Elephant or the Eames House Bird.
The relationship between Vitra and Charles and Ray Eames was more than just a manufacturer:designer relationship. Willi and Erika Fehlbaum and Charles and Ray Eames became very good friends and Charles Eames was to become one of Fehlbaum's most important mentors. The Vitra philosophy is strongly influenced by the Eames and even today, important questions at Vitra are approached from the perspective "What would Charles and Ray do?"
In 1949, Charles and Ray Eames built a house in Pacific Palisades: a construction which not only plays an important role in the architecture of the 20th century, but also reflects the work and philosophy of the designer couple in a very beautiful way. The house was designed as part of the "Case Study House Program" for the US magazine "Arts & Architecture": architects and designers were invited to plan innovative houses specifically for specific end-user groups in the context of American post-war architecture. The Charles and Ray Eames House was conceived for their own needs: a young couple looking for a house where you can live as well as work. The Eames House is based on a modular system and consists largely of elements of industrial series production, thus perfectly reflecting the Eames' enthusiasm for the latest technologies and the need to test them to the limits. However, the Eames House is not only architecturally relevant, but the interior furnishing by Charles and Ray Eames also play a role in modern design history. Anything but uniform or monotonous, the interior of the Eames House is a living example of Eames' philosophy of "mix and match": new and old, different styles and concepts are intermingled, the living space in a continuous "work in progress". The personal, relaxed atmosphere created by the collage approach impressed Willi Fehlbaum deeply and has greatly influenced Vitra's design philosophy.
The influence of Charles and Ray Eames on today's world goes far beyond architecture and designer furniture. Their legacy is their design philosophy, the division of space and the role that design occupies in our daily lives.
Rolf Fehlbaum, son of the Vitra founder Willi and Erika Fehlbaum, founded the Vitra Design Museum as a collection for important and influential design of the 20th century. It is therefore based to a large extent on the work of Charles and Ray Eames and their collaboration with Vitra. In a permanent exhibition, the Vitra Design Museum presents both finished products as well as prototypes and sketches. In addition together with the Library of Congress, Washington D.C. the touring exhibition "The Work of Charles and Ray Eames" was conceived and since 1997 been on display in London, New York, Berlin and Tel Aviv.
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...Promising one of the most inclusive and fulsome explorations of the work and legacy of Charles and Ray Eames ever staged, the Vitra Design Museum are not only calling on the depth of their collection, but the volume of the Vitra Campus, to stage four parallel Eames exhibitions... The Power of Design is based on the Barbican Museum London's exhibition The World of Charles and Ray Eames, expanded and reconfigured for the occasion, and which promises some 500 objects covering not only the full gambit of the pair's works, but also their lives, motivations and relationships with contemporaries...
...With the exhibition, The World of Charles and Ray Eames at the Barbican Art Gallery London coming to an end, it is most timeous that the Art & Design Atomium Museum, ADAM, Brussels are offering through their new exhibition Eames & Hollywood an opportunity to explore in a little more detail one of those many, many Eames' Worlds... "The idea came from curator Alexandra Midal" explains ADAM's Exhibitions Director Arnaud Bozzini, "one day she showed me some of the photos and I was very impressed by the quality of the pictures and was instantly fascinated by the idea of staging an exhibition which explained that Charles and Ray Eames are not just about design or architecture or chairs, but that there are also the photographs, and that photography was a major component in their thinking about design and art...
smow blog Interview: Eames Demetrios - I don't think Charles and Ray were ever satisfied with their own work, they were always trying to make it better
...smow blog: One of the things that has always interested us about Charles Eames is that he appears to have been a journeyman architect, he then went to Cranbrook Academy of Art and subsequently, as it were, revolutionised design and how we view the world... Why was Cranbrook so important for Charles Eames' development...
...Charles Eames was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1907... "I think they simply liked the relationship with the companies" replies Charles Eames' grandson and current Eames Office director, Eames Demetrios, "even though Hermann Miller and Vitra were aware of the "design" label, their principle aim was to deliver quality products that worked and Charles and Ray Eames wanted to bring well designed products to as many people as possible, and so the two worked very well together...
...Charles Eames is arguably the best known representative of post-war American design... Yet exactly because of the success of his post-war work it is often forgotten that Charles Eames has a pre-war biography, a biography that is pre-Ray Kaiser, pre-George Nelson, pre-Hermann Miller, pre-Vitra, pre-plywood, plastic and aluminium, pre-IBM, Moscow, India, Mathematica, Franklin & Jefferson...
...In a 1977 conversation with the Owen Gingerich Charles Eames talks at length about plagiarism & plagiarists including some very interesting passages on why the pair stopped striving for patents themselves, preferring to leave such decisions to the manufacturers, how Herman Miller noticed increased sales of the Eames' plastic chair collection every time new copies appeared and the importance of the moral patent that exists between designers, an unspoken understanding that "thou shalt not copy" Having discussed the prevalence of copies of Eames' chairs Gingerich asks, "But don't you have to worry about plagiarism?... By way of a postscript, the conversation begins with a discussion about some chairs Eames and Gingerich had seen at Arlanda Airport Stockholm a few years earlier, a passage that offers some nice insights into both Charles Eames' understanding of who was responsible for the Eames' designs and also the problem of the ubiquitous global designer...
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