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The Oakland Museum’s New Eames Show Is a Tinkerer’s Paradise

A new exhibition shines a light on the iconic designers’ less celebrated creations.


House of Cards.

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A Magis Spun chair by Herman Miller.

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An abstract sculpture made from plywood.

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You know the Eames lounge chair. You love the Eames lounge chair. But in the Oakland Museum of California’s new exhibition The World of Charles and Ray Eames, you’ll find more than just $5,000 seating to drool over. For the famed couple, “design is less about the object and more about the outcome,” curator Carin Adams says. Here, some lesser-known examples of their enduring influence. Oct. 13–Feb. 17, 2019

Everything Connects
“Toys and games,” Charles Eames once said, “are preludes to serious ideas.” Take, for example, the Eameses’ House of Cards (pictured above), a deck that can be interlocked to build towering structures, or the Toy, a set of 30-inch geometric panels that can be assembled into forts or stage sets. Both will be shown at OMCA.

Top Art
Movement was at the heart of the Eameses’ work, and nowhere is that more clearly on display than in their 1969 short film Tops, which features the spinning toys in seemingly perpetual and precarious motion. Visitors to the museum can watch the film while sitting in Herman Miller’s Magis Spun chairs (pictured)—whose inspiration is unmistakable.

The Fine Art of Plywood
In 1943, the U.S. Navy commissioned the Eameses to produce leg splints made from plywood. This gave them the opportunity to experiment with new plywood-molding technology, a breakthrough that allowed them to fashion many thin layers of wood into a single curved unit (as in the abstract sculpture pictured above). The couple went on to use molded plywood in many of their signature designs, including—you guessed it—the Eames lounge chair.


Originally published in the October issue of San Francisco

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