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Massive new Eames exhibition sheds light on iconic couple’s legacy and California life

The people behind the designs

Charles and Ray Eames sitting on the La Chaise prototype, 1948.
Charles and Ray Eames sitting on the La Chaise prototype, 1948.
© Eames Office LLC. courtesy of OMCA

You probably know all about Ray and Charles Eames’ famous designs—but how much do you know about the designers themselves? A new exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California is aiming to draw a link between the design power couple’s chairs and toys, and their life in the Golden State.

Bent plywood chairs in a row
Installation view of experimental molded plywood chairs. Barbican Art Gallery, London, October 21, 2015 – February 14, 2016.
© Eames Office LLC. courtesy of OMCA

“The World of Charles and Ray Eames” is an in-depth and personal look at the designers as told through more than 380 items. The exhibition is split into four sections that range from a survey of the couple’s early life in California to their models and material experiments to multimedia projects like the iconic short film Powers of Ten.

The Eames’ living room
Photograph: Antonia Mulas © Eames Office LLC. courtesy of OMCA
Eames Office staff wearing prototype toy masks, 1950.
© 2018 Eames Office LLC. courtesy of OMCA.

For true Eames fanatics, it’s probably a lot of what you already know. There will be chairs and videos and plenty of sketches. What makes Oakland’s exhibition different—and worthwhile—is the personalized frame of reference. Today, the Eames’ work is universal—but “The World of Charles and Ray Eames” shows how influential California was as a backdrop for the designers’ idealistic experimentations.

Eames holding hands on the beach
Charles and Ray Eames at the beach, California, early 1940s.
© 2018 Eames Office LLC. courtesy of OMCA

“The World of Charles and Ray Eames” runs through February 27, 2019 at the Oakland Museum of California.