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Art Nouveau Tiles: Fantastic Flowers and Other Forms

February 24 - June 24, 2001

Treasure Room                                                                                            


The 300 tiles in this exhibition represent the highly decorative, international style known as Art Nouveau. The style, characterized by fluidity of line and movement, swirling and rhythmic naturalistic shapes, and sinuous ornamentation, flourished from roughly 1885-1915.


The Victorian period had been an era of the mass-produced, printed tile, but the new style demanded new techniques, such as press-molding, tube-lined surfaces and glazing to produce shiny, translucent surfaces. Tilemaking by impressing images onto the clay became widespread practice in Europe and England. The tiles were used in interior architectural settings, appearing as fireplace surrounds, wall coverings, on ovens and other surfaces.


Despite their restricted format, 6 x 6 inches, the tiles maintain the integrity of the Art Nouveau with its strong focus on floral motifs, imaginative range, and design vitality. By comparing and contrasting the tiles on view in the Treasure Room, viewers will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the movement known as Art Nouveau.


Alumi-Nuts:  Collectors’ Confessions

October 28, 2000 – February 11, 2001                            


Since the 1920s, household aluminum objects have been beloved by collectors.  On view concurrently with Aluminum by Design: Jewelry to Jets, this small exhibition features highlights from eight notable Pennsylvania collections of aluminum decorative and household objects, focusing more on the collectors and their motivations than on the objects themselves.

            “Some of these collectors have an academic approach, and know every piece, every maker,” explains Elisabeth Agro, assistant curator of Decorative Arts and the organizer of Alumi-nuts.  “For other collectors, it’s just passion and the pleasure of the hunt.”

            Sherry A. Kudranski of Plum would fall into the latter category.  Her Colorama tumblers, anodized rainbows of ice cream scoops and iced tea spoons light up the vitrine devoted to her collection.  While the objects are commonplace, the devotion with which they have been sought out and assembled is anything but ordinary.  Michael Olijnyk, curator of the Mattress Factory, designed his own installation of the objects he loves to seek out.  When asked by Agro, which was his favorite, he confessed that it was always his most recent find.  And Mike Coleman can spot a Wear-Ever coffeepot or tea kettle across three aisles at a flea market.  The vitrine devoted to his pieces shows off the best examples of his extensive collection.

            Dr. Thomas Armour and Clayton T. Sheasley, Jr., both sons of important manufacturers of aluminum,  are devoted to maintaining a collection of their fathers’ work.  “Clayton Sheasley, Sr., is the only small producer of hand-hammered objects in Western Pennsylvania still alive,” comments Agro.  “It was a small community and they all knew each other and shared ideas.”

            Collections, however, can be organized according to many different principles. Dennis Wildnauer of Allentown focuses on the smaller manufacturers from Western Pennsylvania, while Marilyn Bonatti’s acclaimed collection of every piece of Kensington Wear ever made, both prototype and otherwise, has earned her the title “the Kensington Lady.” John Franke has devoted part of his collection to objects decorated with a chrysanthemum, manufactured by Continental.  “You can,” Agro points out, “even collect by pattern.”

            Visitors to the exhibition may wish they had held on to their parents’ hammered aluminum ice bucket or their great aunt’s commemorative ashtray collection.  They will undoubtedly walk away with a different view of what collecting can be, and a new respect for the passions of the dedicated collector.


Aluminum in Contemporary Architecture                   

Forum  Gallery

November 18 – February 4, 2001                          


            The eight projects featured in this exhibition, which appears concurrently with Aluminum by Design:  Jewelry to Jets, illustrate the wide variety of architectural applications of aluminum.

            “Aluminum is versatile,” says Tracy Myers, associate curator of  the Heinz Architectural Center at Carnegie Museum of Art, who organized the exhibition.  “The exhibition shows that today’s architects are not just taking advantage of the metal’s versatility, but they are also using aluminum as an integral element in surprising and beautiful designs.”

            The projects in the exhibition, all designed in the last decade, range widely in terms of scale and function and highlight some of the qualities that make aluminum desirable as an architectural material – light weight, malleability, reflectivity, and economy.

Upcoming aluminum programs:                                                               

        Architect Mark Wamble will discuss the many lessons Houston offers on how an unregulated approach to development and urban life can be original, authentic, and enjoyable. In this context, Wamble will discuss the Houston Products Laboratory, a building whose design can only be realized in aluminum. January 22, CMA Theater, 6:00 p.m.

        The Alcoa Forecast Program Revisited. CMU design students display their work in aluminum in the Hall of Sculpture January 30-February 4. Discussion: February 3, 12:00 p.m.

        Marc Newson lecture. One of the most influential industrial designers today, Newson is sometimes considered the equivalent of a design world “rock star.” February 1, Carnegie Lecture Hall, 6:00 p.m.


For more information on these programs call 622.3131 or visit  www.aluminumbydesign.org.






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