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Materials are the Message at MAD's Pathmakers Exhibition of Midcentury Craft

Furniture designer Vivian Beer in her studio (2004). Photo by Mariana Rosas-Garcia, courtesy of Vivian Beer.
Furniture designer Vivian Beer in her studio (2004). Photo by Mariana Rosas-Garcia, courtesy of Vivian Beer.

Media theorist Marshall McLuhan famously said "the medium is the message," but sadly in the world of visual arts, not all mediums are judged the same way. With Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today, a new exhibition featuring a wide-ranging display of more than 100 works in textiles, ceramics, and metal, New York's Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) showcases an alternative history of creativity and artistry that runs contrary to the conventional midcentury narrative, largely dominated by painting, sculpture and architecture. And, men -- this new survey provides insights into the work of female designers such as textile innovator and fabric artist Dorothy Liebes and Hella Jongerius, whose original designs for the United Nations Delegates' Lounge, including a curtain of ceramic beads, has been recreated for the exhibit.

"Pathmakers places women at the center of the midcentury modernist narrative, and makes a powerful case for the importance of craft and design media as professional pathways," stated Glenn Adamson, MAD's Nanette L. Laitman Director.

The exhibit draws an arc between postwar innovators and Scandinavian designers, such as: Rut Bryk (a massive wall relief on display showcases her skills with prints and ceramics), Marianne Strengell (the exhibit features her Forecast Rug, an all-aluminum textile developed for ALCOA), Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney and Alice Kagawa Parrott. By connecting their work with modern practitioners, such as Gabriel Ann Maher, whose videos and garments tackles issues of performance and gender, and Vivian Beer, the show reinforces the power of there materials and the continuing influence of early artists and designers.


Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today runs at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), at 2 Columbus Circle in New York City from April 28 to September 27.