24 Oct

Against the grain

Chermayeff & Geismar Collection Box 28 Folder 1. Exhibition list of works, 1957. Design by Robert Brownjohn.

These exhibition catalogs and announcements for the Museum of Contemporary Crafts were created just a year after the museum’s founding in 1956. (The museum changed its name to the American Craft Museum in 1986 and to the Museum of Arts and Design in 2002, reflecting the general shift in the last decade in what we identify as “crafts”.)

Their improvisational nature reveals the hand of Robert Brownjohn, a partner with Ivan Chermayeff & Tom Geismar at the time, as well as that of Chermayeff. The presence of natural patterns within a composed piece is what caught my attention initially, but the textural designs share a strong sensibility with the work of Blechman & Palladino (see this book jacket and their Architectural & Engineering News covers. It’s worth noting that B, C & G did their own covers for A&E News). Mostly, Brownjohn, Chermayeff & Geismar’s designs for the Museum of Contemporary Crafts hit upon the trends that were formalizing in late 50s; there’s the elevation of mundane objects Brownjohn realized fully in his Pepsi-Cola World covers but also, in the catalog for “Furniture By Craftsmen”, a hint of the Push Pin ethos, with vintage graphic style and an emphasis on illustration.

Chermayeff & Geismar Collection Box 27 Folder 20. Exhibition invitation, 1957.

Chermayeff & Geismar Collection Box 28 Folder 1. Exhibition catalog, 1956. Design by Robert Brownjohn and Ivan Chermayeff.

Chermayeff & Geismar Collection Box 28 Folder 1. The Museum of Contemporary Crafts. “Furniture by Craftsmen” exhibition catalog, 1957. Design by Robert Brownjohn and Martin Moskof.