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Carnegie Museums

November 8, 2003 – January 11, 2004




At Right, Top to Bottom:
Markow Residence,
Garofalo Architects, 2001.
The design for the Markow Residence adapts to key elements of the original home and takes its cues from its
surroundings in a greater Chicago area suburb.

Basic House, Martin Ruiz
de Azua, 2000.
Weighing but a few ounces, Basic House is the most portable of homes, able to be carried in a pocket like a handkerchief.

do break, Frank Tjepkema and Peter van der Jagt, 2001.
The philosophy behind the do create products was to make the products come alive. do break is a vase that is meant to be broken to form a crackle pattern but does not shatter.

Nipple Chair, Part of the Placebo Project, 2001.
Nipple Chair includes a sensor that causes two protrusions in the chair’s back to vibrate when the sensor comes into contact with the sitter.

Koers, Zeinstra, van Gelderen
Model of Tumble House 1998. Originally commissioned as an alternative to traditional storage sheds, Tumble House is meant to be a piece of garden furniture that can be used no matter what its orientation.


Strangely Familiar: Design and Everyday Life

A chocolate ruler to measure greed. A house that can be folded up to fit in your pocket. Garments that transform into an armchair, a kite, or a tent. These are just a few of the objects featured in Strangely Familiar: Design and Everyday Life, an exhibition organized by Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, that considers the role designers play in cultural sensibilities.


Over the past decade, the increasing number of designed objects available to the consumer has created a greater awareness of all aspects of design, from architecture to furniture, fashion, graphics, and products for the home. How we live and travel and how we function at home and at work are all influenced by this new culture of design, and the three-dozen pieces featured in this exhibition ask fundamental questions about how we interact with the built environment.

A multidisciplinary exhibition drawn from international sources, the show has four themes: extraordinary objects and spaces that refer to and transform common objects; multifunctional objects that change both shape and use; portable structures; and objects that force users to reconsider their basic relationship to the product, leading to new uses and expectations.

“ People are very conscious these days of new communication technologies, of the huge amount of intelligence that can fit in a small chip,” explains Raymund Ryan, curator of architecture at Heinz Architectural Center. “At the same time, there is a reappraisal of ordinary things, and the notion of the ordinary is different now.”

For example, the London-based designers Anthony Dunne + Fiona Raby’s Placebo Project places electronic objects such as a global satellite positioning device into household furniture. “At first the furniture looks very banal,” says Ryan. “They deliberately photograph their pieces in very ordinary houses and backgrounds, as if to say that their work is not about high design. Anybody can use it.”

The do create collection—developed by Droog Design in collaboration with the Amsterdam advertising agency KesselsKramer —demands that the consumer interact with the product as a way of customizing it. do break is a ceramic vase with a coating that allows it to crack but not splinter; do swing is a light fixture that hopefully supports the weight of even corpulent partygoers. “You make it your own,” says Ryan. “It’s not some pure thing, the traditionally precious design object on its pedestal.”

Architectural elements are a key aspect of the exhibition, with many young designers reconsidering the potential of the shipping container. “High Modernists before World War II and then again in the 1960s also experimented with pod architecture, but what might be different now is that the projects are more realistic and less utopian,” says Ryan. Japanese architect Shigeru Ban’s Paper Loghouse was developed after the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, as a response to the sudden need for quick, practical housing. The house sits on a base of Kirin beer crates, the walls are cardboard tubes, and the roof is canvas.

“ These designers are less interested in inventing a new pod per se, but in seeing what can be done with what already exists, hence the name Strangely Familiar,” adds Ryan.

The exhibition runs concurrently with Very Familiar, a celebration of the first 50 years of the Department of Decorative Arts at Carnegie Museum of Art, and a study of the philosophy and themes that run through
the collection.

Recent Acquisition:
Driftwood, 2001-2002, by Peter Doig

Peter Doig, British, 1959,
Driftwood, 2001-2002, oil on canvas,
Carnegie Museum of Art, The Henry Hillman Fund.

Peter Doig’s landscapes and nature scenes are painted from photographs, both his own and those found in newspapers, postcards, record covers, movie stills, and other sources. Born in Scotland in 1959, Doig grew up in Canada and moved to London for further studies, receiving his Masters in Art from the Chelsea School of Art in London in 1990. For five years he was a trustee of the Tate Gallery in London, and in 2002 he moved with his family to Trinidad.

“ This picture is unusual in the artist's oeuvre by virtue of its shape,” explains Curator of Contemporary Art Laura Hoptman. “Although Doig has painted very large landscapes for the past 10 years, he rarely has painted a vertical composition like this one.”

Doig often works in a series, using the same motif numerous times, sometimes referring to the images as flashbacks or memories. Carnegie Museum of Art received as a gift a large, finished painting on paper, also titled Driftwood, which is similar in design. “According to the artist,” says Hoptman, “the work on paper was begun before the painting, but completed after the painting was finished. Thus, it served both as a study and an addendum to the larger work.”

Considered one of Britain’s leading artists, Doig was nominated for the prestigious Turner prize in 1994. While many of his landscapes to date have been reminiscent of his upbringing in Canada, his recent work is beginning to reflect his current home in the Caribbean.

Impressionist Prints Celebrate Light, Life, and Friendship
Childe Hassam: Prints and Drawings from the Collection

Frederick Childe Hassam always rejected the stylistic label of “Impressionist.” Hassam (1859–1935) began his career in Boston as a wood engraver and illustrator, and started painting in the Impressionist style after an inspiring trip to Paris between 1887 and 1889. He turned to printmaking in 1915, first etching and then lithography, eventually producing some 375 etchings and 42 lithographs.

Known mostly for his landscapes, Hassam’s abiding interest is capturing the effects of light and air in the natural environment. He and his wife, Maude, moved to New York City in 1889, and summered in New England or in East Hampton, where he found inspiration for much of his work. He also did a series of paintings and lithographs of patriotic flag displays in New York during World War I, as well as scenes of lively street life or skyline views. His natural affinity for graphic arts may be seen in his explorations of color and pictorial structure.

“ These drawings lend insight into an essential truth about Hassam’s picture-making,” explains Linda Batis, associate curator of Fine Arts. “He drew and painted what he saw before him.”

Despite his resistance to the label, Hassam became the best known American painter in the Impressionist style. He enjoyed a long friendship with John Beatty, director of Fine Arts at Carnegie Museum of Art from 1896 to 1922, and exhibited more than 90 paintings at the Carnegie Internationals, the museum’s annual exhibition of contemporary art. He served on the exhibition’s award jury in 1903 and 1904, and again in 1910, during which he was given a solo exhibition. He also served as an informal advisor to Beatty on purchases of work by other artists.

In 1900, Carnegie Museum of Art became the first American museum to acquire one of Hassam’s paintings with the purchase of Fifth Avenue in Winter. In 1907, Beatty purchased 30 drawings directly from the artist, one of the largest such groups in any museum collection and—according to the artist—some of his best. The etchings and lithographs on view in this exhibition are from a group of 60 prints donated by Hassam’s widow in recognition of the close relationship between the artist and Carnegie Museum of Art.


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