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Exhibit Brings Midcentury California Design to Massachusetts

By Dwell @dwell
An exhibition coming to coastal Massachusetts in March explores California's evolution as an incubator of progressive midcentury design. Slideshow Recreation Pavilion, Mirman House, Arcadia, California

Recreation pavilion, Mirman House, Arcadia, California, by Buff, Straub & Hensman (later Buff, Hensman and Associates), 1958. Detail of a photo by Julius Shulman, 1959. Getty Research Institute.

An exhibition that celebrates California as an epicenter of midcentury design is coming to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, in March, its only scheduled stop on the East Coast, the museum announced this week.

The exhibition, “California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way,” was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), where it made its debut in 2011. It traces California’s evolution into one of the world’s leading incubators of talent in the fields of architecture, graphic design, furniture design, and fashion.

The influx of waves of new residents in the 1920s led to unprecedented demand for housing and furnishings that accelerated in the boom years after World War II. A new consumer class emerged and, with it, opportunities for progressive architects, designers, and manufacturers to create affordable modern homes and elegant furnishings to go in them.

“The goal was to provide well-designed, accessible, and affordable modern homes and furnishings to millions of Californians and those around the country who craved them,” says Austen Barron Bailly, the Peabody Essex Museum’s George Putnam curator of American art and a former associate curator of American art at LACMA. “The designers who embraced California modern ideals wanted to make everyday life beautiful and comfortable. They responded to California’s environment and pioneered new ways to meld craft production with industrial manufacturing.”

The exhibition is divided into four thematic sections—Shaping, Making, Living, and Selling. It opens March 29 and runs through July 6, 2014.

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