Conceptual Craft

Celebrating Mid-Century California Design

From 1955 to 1971, the Pasadena Art Museum (now the Norton Simon Museum of Art) hosted a juried competition that highlighted the best in the diverse, prolific and bold landscape of mid-century California design. Furniture and consumer goods were chosen for their craftsmanship and usability, though experimental approaches to form and manufacturing were often favored, as seen in the unexpected, lively configuration of the present lot.

The exhibition aimed to set apart California design from its historical and contemporary counterparts as an expression of the state's "strongly individual, almost frontier syndrome" that remained untainted by the pressures of the commercial market and the preciousness inherent in much of fine art. This pervasive attitude allowed for creative, progressive designs not limited by traditional notions of domestic suitability or laden with cultural precedence. 

Works featured in the California Design Eleven exhibition

This desk, created for the last installation of the California Design exhibitions, recalls the natural elements that compose it, in its sinuous curves, rich color and thick planes; it simultaneously suggests the space it will graciously inhabit, the body that will buzz about it, and the papers, books and thoughts that will come to clutter its many inviting surfaces. In true "frontier" spirit, the present lot, through its expanse and terrain of form, communicates potentiality.

Most of the explorations are highly personal, aesthetically, technically and, in certain cases, philosophically movtivated. There is a strong shift away from the thinking of the creation of the finite object towards evolving a totality of experience. Works take on a life of their own and become a palpable experience.

Eudorah M. Moore, Director of the California Design exhibition