(adam štěch) An auction of 20th century design will take place in the Wright auction house in Chicago on June 2. Over the past few years, the company has achieved a collection of fascinating designer pieces from the last century. This auction will not be an exception. It will offer a great opportunity to explore the secrets of American hand-crafted design from the 1960s and 1970s. The catalogue includes several unique creations from this significant post-war style of American design.
American crafts - studio furniture or “haute couture” of American design appeared in the 1970s as an alternative to modernist visions of “designer-engineers” who had always dreamt about the production of their designs in the highest numbers of pieces. Similar to the decoration tendencies in France in the 1950s (led by designers such as Jean Royeré, Jacques Adnet, and Raphäel), American designers abandoned industrial lot production and started to create their works in limited series in their own workshops and smaller factories. Like their French colleagues, they emphasized precise craftsmanship, quality materials, and the decorative aspect of their final works. These designers learned a range of handicrafts during that time.
George Nakashima, Paul Evans, Harvey Prober, Wendell Castle, Karl Springer, Michael Coffey, and Phillip Powell became the most significant representatives of this movement. However, thanks to craft small-lot production, many designers-craftsmen, whose names have been revived recently, started to focus on this field. Some of them have been revived thanks to the Wright auction house. Apart from works by Paul Evans (the colorful cabinet of the PE-40A model from 1973 designed for Directional is very beautiful) and George Nakashima, which are well-known, the list includes less-known, yet remarkable interior designs. John Dickinson, who worked in California and designed several interior elements for houses designed by John Lautner, is represented by the Rope timeless table from the 1970s, which, by means of plaster, imitates an ordinary table covered by a sheet and bound by a rope. Do you not recall the famous objects by Cristo?
However, American designers-craftsmen found the most rewarding material in wood, which they could form into unexpected sculptural shapes. Thus, they brought this movement closer to sculpture. For example, the two-armed lamp, designed by Robert Worth in 1970, truly is a spectacular object. The designer, who taught at the Philadelphia College of Art, applies an organic form onto his lamp, much like sculptors Hans Arp and Henry Moore. However, organic shapes were fundamental for most designers of the American craft movement. The auction will also present the sculpturesque table designed by David Bennett in 1967; a ten year younger lockable escritoire designed by David Powell, who designed furniture for the English Queen Elizabeth II before arriving in the USA; and the elegantly shaped coffee table that was designed by Michaela Coffey, who ranks among the most important representatives of this movement. Karl Springer may be labeled as a modern baroque decorator. Their delicate and masterly decorative pieces had an impact on many creators in the 1970s – which the travertine stools in the shape of a crystal and designed by an unknown designer prove.
American craft is an outstanding style that has only recently started to attract attention. The forthcoming auction in the Wright auction house and the Modern Americana book published by Todd Merrill Gallery in New York, which deals with this fascinating designer movement in complex detail, are real proofs.
Custom desk, design: David Powell, 1977