An Ethnic Angle on Modern

New S.F. exhibition highlights considerable contribution of Jews to mid-century design
An Ethnic Angle on Modern
For the 'Designing Home' exhibition, this photo illustrates the Jewish connection (Palm Springs circa 1946) above of Richard Neutra (architect), Julius Shulman (photographer), and Edgar Kaufmann (original homeowner). Photo: Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute. Copyright © J. Paul Getty Trust

Of all events of the 20th century, there may not have been any with more impact on American modernism than World War II.

And nowhere is this fact made clearer than in the exhibition now running (through October 6) at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, 'Designing Home: Jews and Midcentury Modernism.'

Reportedly the first major exhibition of its kind, 'Designing Home' highlights the work of some three dozen creative professionals who left indelible marks on American design and architecture of the midcentury, not the least of which was builder Joe Eichler himself.

One cannot peruse the exhibition without realizing that the Third Reich drove a sizeable number of talented artists, designers, and Bauhaus architects to flee persecution and the war in Europe for the comparatively safe artistic environs of the U.S.

The exhibition features more than 120 pieces of furniture, textiles, wallpaper, ceramics, dinnerware, posters and photographs of work by such talents as Anni Albers, Saul Bass, Alvin Lustig, George Nelson, Richard Neutra, and Harry Rosenthal. California mid-century design is prominently featured.

For the Eichler leg of the exhibit, guest curator Donald Albrecht, Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of the City of New York, opted for three vintage color images of the X-100 steel Eichler by photographer Ernie Braun.

The exhibition also explores the considerable influence on modernism by institutions such as New York's Museum of Modern Art, Walker Art Center, and even the Pond Farm in nearby Guerneville.

Supplementing the program are screenings of two Hollywood productions about the Jewish-American experience, 'A Gentlemen's Agreement' (on May 6) and 'Marjorie Morningstar' (on June 3).

For more on 'Designing Home,' click here.