National Book Month: Reading Charles & Ray Eames

Have you heard of “Pacific Standard Time”? This groundbreaking event of more than 60 exhibitions at venues from San Diego to Santa Barbara, and from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, highlights the artistic achievements of Southern California from the second half of the 20th century. It includes painting and sculpture, performance art, photography, film, architecture, ceramics, printmaking, furniture, industrial and graphic design, among other creative disciplines. Whew!

On Saturday I got the chance to visit two venues associated with this wide-ranging event to see works by Charles and Ray Eames, whose multi-faceted design legacy was the subject of 16 stamps issued in 2008. I started at “Collecting Eames,” an exhibit of Eames furniture  at JF Chen, an antiques emporium in Hollywood. The exhibit features dozens of designs spanning several decades of invention and refinement. A number of the objects were featured on the 2008 Charles + Ray Eames stamps, including the Eames Storage Unit (ESU), the famous lounge chair and ottoman, many examples of the Lounge Chair Wood (LCW), and the graceful La Chaise.

The Eameses enjoy worldwide popularity and recognition, but they are especially embraced by Angelenos and the Eames House (Case Study House #8), located in Pacific Palisades, is a favorite destination for architecture and design lovers. Right now, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, an exhibition called “California Design” features a replica of the Eames House’s living room. Visitors familiar with the house will be surprised to see that all of the living room’s contents have been transported across town and reassembled in the replica. It’s an astonishing experience. We spent a lot of time comparing what we know of the actual living room with the temporary museum installation of the room’s objects. The similarities are uncanny.

“California Design” also features other popular Eames designs including chairs, a molded-plywood elephant made especially for children, and the Hang-It-All, a coat hanger featured on the 2008 Eames stamp pane.

Both exhibitions have gorgeous catalogs (Collecting Eames: The JF Chen Collection and California Design, 1930-1965: “Living in a Modern Way”), which I am reading (devouring really) for National Book Month. Do you have any favorite art or design books to recommend?

© Eames Office LLC 2007