Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design at the Museum of Arts and Design, NYC

If you get a chance to see this exhibition, grab it! Laid out over two floors and showing over 100 works, it explores the important contributions of women to modernism in postwar visual culture in the 1950s and 60s. At the time, the fields of architecture, painting and sculpture were dominated by men
but certain pioneering women had a notable impact using alternative materials such as textiles, ceramics and metals.  The beauty and strength of this exhibition is the explosion of ingenuity, resourcefulness and determination of these women designers and the space they carved out for themselves. While dealing with skepticism from manufacturing and engineering peers, they persevered and revealed the possibilities inherent in exploring alternative and unconventional mediums, opening up the field of decorative art to exciting new horizons. They made it happen!
Belly Button room divider 1957 Eva Zeisel
Belly Button Room Divider (1957) by Eva Zeisel
Eva Zeisel (born 1906 Hungary – 2011 New York City).  You can see Zeisel’s light touch and playful sense of humor in the both the title and the joyous use of bold color in this room divider. Made of metal rods and ceramic with cheerfully colored glazes (manufactured by Mancioli), this screen sings of optimism and the joy of being alive.
'Resilient' chair (1948) by Eva Zeisel‘Resilient’ chair (1948) by Eva Zesiel
Zesiel worked in, and explored, a variety of mediums including chrome-plated steel and cotton in the ‘Resilient’ chair above and plexiglass in the renowned ‘Cloverleaf’  salad bowl and servers (below).  For the latter Zeisel adapted materials and technology originally developed for the windshields of wartime flighted planes. The flowing curved lines are an irresistible invitation to touch and echo the human form.
'Cloverleaf' salad bowl and servers in plexiglass by Eva Zeisel‘Cloverleaf’ salad bowl and Servers in plexiglass by Eva Zeisel
 Textile panel 1967 by Sheila HicksTextile panel by Sheila Hicks
This textile panel was made for a recent reconstruction of an installed design made by Sheila Hicks (b. 1934) in 1967 for the Ford Foundation in New York City. The interior architect, Warren Platner had hired Hicks to design panels for the auditorium and the boardroom and, using linen, silk and plexiglass, she created these warm and subtle patterns where the geometrically precise lines of golden silks create thick circles on the linen.
They served the function of creating a warm and soothing environment without distracting from the activities going on in the rooms.
Wire sculpture by Ruth AsawaWire sculpture by Ruth Asawa (1926-2013)
 Asawa’s sculptures achieve the seemingly impossible – defining space without creating mass. On a trip to Mexico she had learnt the traditional techniques for working in wire which became a key element in her work. The transparency of her pieces reveals interior forms, suggesting an embryo within the womb, or a seed within the pod – life within.  There is a primeval sense of nurturing and at the same time a very sensual aspect to her work – the earth mother and the sensuous woman.
Ceramic bowl by Edith Heath
Ceramic bowl (1950s) by Edith Heath (1911-2005) 
 Edith Heath’s ceramics exemplify the relaxed yet elegant style of midcentury modern California design. Heath’s research in clay bodies and glazes led to durable stoneware forms with rich, speckled surfaces and opened the path for the exploration of this largely unexplored medium (at the time).
Sofa by Hella Jongerius 2013Sofa by Hella Jongerius (2013) for the United Nations Delegates’ Lounge
 Hella Jongerius’s sofa design for the United Nations Delegates’ Lounge shows deliberately mismatched buttons – the very opposite of tidy and corporate, reminding us of the element of personal creativity within an essentially political space.
The Museum of Arts and Design, 2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019.
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