NOMA curator Mel Buchanan selected five must-see objects from “The Essence of Things” exclusively for Advocate readers.
1. Sybold van Ravesteyn, Lamp, 1926
This single, elegant lamp design could represent the entire complicated thesis of the exhibition. Almost brutal in its simplicity, it is from the era of European design that pushed the idea of reduction to its limit.
2. Ray and Charles Eames, DSS Stacking chairs, 1954
The Eames stacking chair was widely produced in the late 1950s and 1960s, and still is today. We have them at NOMA from our education classroom. This exhibition has a fascinating display of late 1940s development experiments and molds produced by the husband and wife team in the design of the famous molded fiberglass chair.
3. Selection of objects from the exhibition’s prologue
The exhibition opens with a wall densely packed with 54 everyday objects from a prehistoric hand axe to a multipack carrier: ingenious tools and gadgets that improve our lives. We sometimes forget that things like rubber bands, egg cartons, and Post-it notes are carefully designed objects.
4. Thonet Brothers, Disassembled No. 14 chairs in a transportation crate.
A top object in the show for me would have to be a 1-cubic-meter box shown packed with 36 of Thonet’s famous bentwood cafe chairs. This 1860 design is the most successful product in furniture history, made ubiquitous around the world thanks in part to a design that allows for compact shipment.
5. Mario Asnago and Claudio Vender, “Bar Moka” chair, 1939
In an exhibition full of design classics, this petite chair stood out because it was not familiar to me. The reduced design comes from the pragmatic need for seating in a cramped Milan espresso bar. It is perfection to me--a delightful mix of metal and rush seating that looks as chic now as it must have in 1939.