After seeing American Vanguards at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth and looking at all the expression and deconstruction, I didn’t expect to be able to relate it to a documentary about Charles and Ray Eames.
What does Mid-Century furniture have to do with early abstract expressionist painting anyway?
Charles Eames has historically overshadowed Ray, but she was the artist and colorist of the pair. According to the film, Ray studied at the Art Students League with abstract expressionist Hans Hofmann. While not represented in American Vanguards (probably because she doesn’t have a direct relation to the central figure John Graham), Ray holds her own as an artist. She was a founder of the American Abstract Artists group in 1936 and displayed paintings in their first show a year later at Riverside Museum in Manhattan. One of her paintings is in the permanent collection of The Whitney Museum of American Art.
She also created several textile designs that were produced by Schiffer Prints, a company that also produced textiles by Salvador Dalí. Original examples of her textiles can also be found in many art museum collections.
I think what is most interesting is to look at the sculpture of David Smith in the exhibition and relate them to the paintings. Smith made welded sculpture that give three dimensional form to what the painters were doing. Then come home and look at paintings by Ray Eames. Then look at the furniture.
At the end of the exhibition at the Amon Carter, you can see Graham move back to representation. Had Ray Eames been included, perhaps at this point you’d be looking at a chair.
One moment they are paintings on the wall you may not understand. But in taking things apart, sooner or later they come back together and a new world is created. Then you realize, art can make our lives better.