Trailblazing furniture by Charles and Ray Eames, the iconic film posters of Saul Bass and the architecture of Viennese expat Richard Neutra, are among important works that tell the story of mid-20th century Californian design. Opening at the Queensland Art Gallery later this year, 'California Design 1930–1965: Living in a Modern Way' explores California’s tradition of the ‘designer-craftsman’. Through major innovations in materials and mass production, the show traces the origins of a distinct modernism in the 1930s, the design breakthroughs made as World War II technologies were adapted for peacetime use – for example the molded plywood technology developed by Charles and Ray Eames that resulted in chairs and objects including the Elephant stool in 1945 – and California’s subsequent emergence as America’s epicentre of innovation in architecture and design.

Featuring more than 250 defining objects of the 20th century, including furniture, textiles, fashion, graphic and industrial design, ceramics, jewellery, metalwork, architectural drawings and film, the exhibition is the first to examine California’s role in shaping the design culture of the United States and in turn the rest of the world. First shown at LACMA in 2011–12, the exhibition was curated by the museum's Wendy Kaplan, Curator and Department Head, and Bobbye Tigerman, Associate Curator of Decorative Arts and Design.

Like the eastern coastal fringe of Australia, in the US California from the 1930s on was thriving. With an influx of European designers and architects including Richard Neurtra, a growing population and a climate that promoted relaxed outdoor living, it was a time of huge growth and an openness for innovation and new materials. Inspiring architects around the world, the mid-century California home became the new role model for a modern way of life.

'California Design 1930–1965: Living in a Modern Way' opens at the Queensland Art Gallery on 2 November and runs until 9 February 2014. To book contact QAG here.

 

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