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art deco, 1910-1939 in san francisco through july 4

updated tue 6 apr 04


Maurice Weitman on mon 5 apr 04

Yo, Claybuds,

Celia and I made the 12-mile trek to the Legion=20
of Honor Museum in San Francisco yesterday to see=20
this fine exhibit.

My faithful readers may recall that in my report=20
on our trip to London this summer, I whined that=20
we missed seeing it at the Victoria and Albert=20
Museum by ONE DAY. I was inconsolable. Until I=20
learned that it would be heading here.

And some of you will be relieved to learn that,=20
despite the beauty and nostalgia of the works=20
here, I did not weep, not even once. Plenty of=20
smiles and loads of admiration, though.

I wonder what age groups are most enamored by Art=20
Deco... being born during (what we pre-boomers=20
call) The War, it was still a part of my early,=20
daily life, although clearly waning. Many of the=20
household and commercial artifacts shown here=20
were found in and around my home and in those of=20
friends and family. The Electrolux vacuum, the=20
Emerson radio, Kodak's Brownie cameras, Wurlitzer=20
juke boxes, Hobart meat slicers.

It's no wonder I'm so strongly attracted to the=20
pots made by Jeff Oestreich, among others.

And the architecture examples, including an=20
exquisite wooden model (perhaps fifteen feet wide=20
and eight feet tall!!!) of the RCA building and=20
Rockefeller Center were a delight for me. Many=20
of the buildings highlighted were very familiar=20
to me, having grown up in Brooklyn and Manhattan.=20
My favorite building remains the Chrysler=20
Building which was depicted in many artists'=20
work, but there were dozens of others represented.

One would imagine that at the V&A the exhibit's=20
scope may have been somewhat deeper, but we left=20
after a bit over two hours completely satiated.=20
Although I think I've got to go back at least=20
once more.

One of the halls held the revolving-door entryway=20
to a London (department store???) whose name I've=20
forgotten. It was secured by the V&A when, in=20
the '60s? it was removed for "modernization." It=20
is a stunning example of how glass, stainless=20
steel, fluorescent lights, and aluminum can be=20
combined in an exuberant fashion to welcome=20

Downstairs, the exhibit continued with samples of=20
four or five pieces from eight or ten countries'=20
exhibits from the 1925 Paris Exposition=20
internationale des arts d=E9coratifs et=20
industrieles modernes.

And the piece de resistance (for us car-crazy=20
boys, at least) was the pristine Cord Phaeton,=20
which seemed to be at least 50% longer than even=20
today's behemoths.

We bought the splendid, 450+ page softcover book=20
of the exhibition. I almost bought one at the=20
V&A, but couldn't bear to shlepp back another six=20
pounds (weight -- 25 pounds Sterling) .

The Legion of Honor is one of two American venues=20
for Art Deco, 1910-1939. The exhibition will open=20
at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, after its run=20
in San Francisco, which ends on July 4.

=46or those of you thinking of attending, admission=20
is free for members, and you may reserve entrance=20
tickets on the web. I strongly suggest that you=20
select one of the earliest times. We opened the=20
joint at 9:30, and when we left at nearly noon,=20
it was pretty crazy.

I've only covered the highlights of this stunning=20
exhibit. Notice I didn't even mention the=20
pottery we saw. There, I just did. There are=20
several nice pots there, and yes, Fiestaware,=20
too. But the design elements of the show and the=20
era are as applicable to ceramics as any other.