US DESIGN 1975-2000, on display at the Memphis Brooks
Museum of Art from December 7, 2003 to February 29, 2004, explores many of
the major theoretical and cultural issues that shaped the design arts during
the last quarter century and documents the accomplishments of three
generations of American designers. R. Craig Miller, the exhibition curator from the Denver Art Museum,
assembled a team of leading design art scholars and critics to research and
organize the exhibition and accompanying catalogue.
Thomas Hine and
Rosemarie Haag Bletter examined the cultural and theoretical issues that
have shaped American design from 1975 to 2000. Other members, including
David G. De Long in architecture, Miller in decorative and industrial
design, and Philip B. Meggs in graphics, selected objects for the exhibition
and wrote essays for the catalogue in their respective areas of expertise.
What is unique about US DESIGN?
US DESIGN is one of the first exhibitions to offer a critical assessment of
American design in this quarter century. The Denver Art Museum assembled a
team of some of the country's leading architecture and design scholars to
assist in the development of the show and its catalogue, resulting in a
thoughtful, measured appraisal of the most significant design developments
from the last quarter century.
What is the purpose of the show?
US DESIGN attempts to illustrate how American design relates to
international developments during the past 25 years and, with the fresh
perspective of a new century, how it relates to larger trends that have
evolved through the 20th century.
How is US DESIGN organized?
The exhibition focuses on developments in the fields of architecture,
graphic design, and decorative and industrial design. The US DESIGN planning
team recognized that there has been no predominant theoretical or stylistic
approach from 1975-2000; therefore, the team focused on two major currents -
the first, a reaction to the various manifestations of mid-century Modernism
and the second, a reaction to Postmodernism in the mid-1980s. These four
concepts led to the show's categories:
Inventing Traditions: In the late 1970s and 80s, American designers
attempted to create a rich visual vocabulary that would be readily
understandable to the public - a movement that is now often referred to as
Celebrating the Everyday: Other designers also reacted to the
prevailing Modernism of the 1960s and 70s but took their inspiration from
popular or vernacular aspects of design. They often employed "found" objects
and everyday materials and forms. They also often used their work as a means
of addressing crucial environmental, political, or social issues.
Redefining Expressionism: Still other American designers sought a
new direction by pursuing a highly conceptual and theoretical approach.
Deconstructivism is a term frequently applied to this movement. Complex
sculptural and layered forms - often highly personal in nature -
characterize much of this work. Indeed, in many cases this design could only
be achieved by new computer technology.
Expanding Modernism: One of the most compelling aspects of the
exhibit is the proposition that a younger generation of designers drew
inspiration from earlier Modernist work but from a broader, more
encompassing perspective. They employ new technology, color, materials, and
even ornament in a poetic manner.
Frank O. Gehry
Wiggle Side Chair & Stool, 1972
Design for the Easy Edge Series