Fueled by their belief in design as a way of life, the innovative husband and wife duo Charles and Ray Eames were two of the most influential designers of the twentieth century. In October, the Oakland Museum of California will be exploring their legacy through multi-media installations, films, rare prototypes, photography, furniture, toys, products, as well as personal letters, drawings, and artwork. The World of Charles and Ray Eames will go beyond the husband and wife duo’s most well-known designs. surveying the careers of Charles (1907-1978) and Ray (1912-1988).
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Encompassing more than 380 works, the exhibition will offer a fresh perspective on the designers and will include multimedia installations, rare prototypes, photography, furniture, toys, products, films, personal letters, drawings, and artwork, showcasing the breadth of their work across many fields in this interactive exhibition that will bring their ideas and playful spirit to life.
The World of Charles and Ray Eames contains four thematic sections. The first section tells the origin story of the couple, with a focus on California as a source of inspiration. Experimentation, iteration, and collaboration were essential to the Eameses’ design process. Their designs explored new ideas, driven by their interest in problem-solving to create a better world. California provided the Eameses with an opportunity to innovate, tapping into the industry and Hollywood connections.
Visitors will have the rare opportunity to see early Eames experiments and landmark commissions, examine a quintessential moment in California design, and learn how the work of Charles and Ray Eames continues to resonate today. Sculptures, sketches, photographs, and objects from the Office will also be on view.
During the mid-20th century, Charles and Ray Eames changed the perception of design. The second section of the exhibition explores the experimental ideas behind their designs, including models and recreations of objects displayed at public exhibitions and world fairs. Museum visitors can relax in Eames lounge chairs and immerse themselves in a large-scale representation of the groundbreaking multi-screen film installation Glimpses USA. See examples of the Eameses’ commissioned installations for corporate and government clients, including early work with IBM before personal computers were a part of mainstream culture.
The third section of the exhibition will explore the Eameses’ multimedia projects and ongoing work developed throughout their career, including furniture, branding, and design. The Eameses’ ethos of taking pleasure seriously in everyday lived experiences will be felt through immersive and multimedia installations, showcasing the beauty of bridging their personal and professional lives. Charles and Ray Eames also saw play as a form of self-discoveryand had a lifelong passion for collecting toys and cultural artifacts, many of which were included in displays at Herman Miller showrooms. OMCA is a part of the Herman Miller Consortium, a group of thirteen museums who hold parts of the Herman Miller collection, which includes designs by Charles and Ray Eames.
In the final section of the exhibition, visitors will see how the Eameses were able to make complex ideas easy to understand through sample lessons and multimedia videos, including the Powers of Ten film, one of the Eameses’ best-known films, which investigates how we understand and process information about the changing world around us.
“Ray and Charles Eames have changed the world of design, creating beautiful work that is both stylish and functional in our everyday lives,” said Carin Adams, Curator of Art and OMCA Exhibition Curator. “As a museum whose mission is to ‘inspire all Californians to create a more vibrant future for themselves and their communities,’ there’s no better example than this dynamic duo, who represent the quintessential California story.”
The World of Charles and Ray Eames was curated and organized by Barbican Art Gallery, London.