MASTERS OF MID-CENTURY CALIFORNIA MODERNISM is the first comprehensive retrospective of the works of Evelyn and Jerome Ackerman. The exhibition offers an overview of the Ackermans’ 50-year collaborative partnership, focusing on their outstanding work in decorative art and design and highlighting their central role as designer-craftsmen who helped shape the California Mid-Century Modern style. The exhibition will continue through January 10, 2010.
MASTERS OF MID-CENTURY CALIFORNIA MODERNISM chronicles the journey of two immensely creative individuals from their independent studio training through their 50-year career as highly successful production designers. This first retrospective explores the Ackermans’ collaboration in design and decorative arts and highlights their cross-disciplinary approach. These Los Angeles-based artists, now in their eighties, shared their interest in, and devotion to, the principles of modern design — as defined by the Bauhaus philosophy of integrating fine art and craftsmanship with industrial practices to produce quality products. Using their deep knowledge of art history, traditional craft and folk art, the Ackermans have created a body of work remarkable for its diversity of styles, techniques and materials.
Jerome Ackerman (American, b. 1920). Designed and produced for Jenev Design Studio, Los Angeles. Selection of Functional Ceramic Vessels, designed 1953-54; produced 1953-59. Earthenware; slip cast. Various dimensions. Collection of the artists; Steve Oliver photograph.
A joining of complementary talents has been the hallmark of their endeavors. Evelyn (b. 1924), trained in painting and drawing, brought to this design marriage an eye for composition and color along with expert draftsmanship. She brought considerable artistic talent and technical ability which is immediately evident in her designs for textiles and carved wood elements and in the design and execution of her enamels and mosaics. Jerome (b. 1920), with a masters’ degree in ceramic design from Alfred University, brought to the partnership his expertise in ceramic production. In addition, his keen business sense promoted their studio output and limited production lines through independent sales representatives and design showrooms. The result has been an important corpus of work that is now being newly appreciated by design historians and a new generation of consumers and collectors.
The couple established their first company, Jenev Design Studio, in Los Angeles in 1953, and in 1956 Jenev Design Studio became ERA Industries, Inc. Reviving traditional techniques in innovative ways, the design studios produced home accessories, furniture and architectural elements in various media — including ceramics, textiles, wood, mosaics, and metalwork. Perhaps unique to the Ackermans was their ability to move fluidly between abstract modernism and figurative stylization in their designs. This characteristic permeates all their work, but is particularly apparent in their varied and prolific textile and ceramic production.
The years 1950 to 1975 saw Los Angeles become a major center of modernist design, particularly in home furnishings. The Ackermans were a vital part of this creative energy and at the forefront of the movement which is now referred to as California Mid-Century Modern. In addition to receiving several notable commissions, their work has been featured in major exhibitions throughout the United States. The Ackermans hold the rare distinction of being included in every exhibition of the prestigious series California Design (1954 to 1976) held primarily at the former Pasadena Art Museum. The couple has been the subject of many articles in the local and national press, and their works are in many significant public and private collections.
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