Monday, January 3, 2011

Gray Matters

Her name was Eileen Gray (Kathleen Eileen Moray Gray). Her peers were MacIntosh, Lloyd Wright, Van Der Rohe, Le Courbusier, and various others of the mid-century Modernist brigade. As a designer she was manifold extraordinaire, bringing her vision to architecture, interiors, furniture, textiles, graphics, Art Deco, and Modernism.

She may be best remembered for this Bibendum chair:

Voluptuous is the overused word here but in an era besotted with the streamlined Bauhaus aesthetic this chair may be the leisure equivalent of the Venus of Willendorf.

When an object is copied and reproduced to such an extent as to seem universally ubiquitous, as the tubular steel and glass table below, it's easy to forget that it was once the product of a designer. To wit: Gray's steel and glass end table.

A quick Google search reveals many versions of this most copied day bed still abound. You might forget that she debuted this design in 1925. The tubular lamp is another of hers.

Early in her career Gray explored a fascination with lacquer, famously displayed in the black screen below. The fruits of this fascination would bring her the first of many successes to follow. It would also infect her hands with a lacquer-induced disease. Most fortunately, the disease did not discourage her.

If her work resembles Le Courbusier, Mies Van Der Rohe, or the Eames it could just as easily be said that their work resembles hers.

Her version of the quintessential Modernist chair ca. 1925-29: A sycamore frame with chromium-plated mounts and fixtures, completed with leather upholstery.

There's a strategy behind this "Non-conformist" chair's (1925) one-armed structure: To allow the user the ability to comfortably lean or turn around while sitting.

Below, her graphic work in the form of two rugs and a print.

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