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Arts

American Streamlined Design @ the MMFA

Posted by Sisi / September 23, 2007

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Photo: "Two Pitchers: Fiesta" courtesy of the MMFA

American Streamlined Design: The World of Tomorrow, 16 may to 28 october, 2007 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion (1379 Sherbrooke St. W)

Walking into American Streamlined Design at the MMFA was like being dropped into a time capsule. As I moseyed through the exhibition, I thought of how much the the stuff on show resembled the appliances from The Brave Little Toaster.

The latter was about an old ragtag group of household objects looking for their former master. As a kid, I developed an incredible guilt complex because I used to have a yellow blanket just like the one in the film. Since then, the idea of abandoned objects has been rehashed in works like Toy Story and the Spike Jonze Ikea commercial.

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To achieve the sleek, glossy look typified by very few outward bumps, gleaming chromium-plated steel, enameled steel, and bakelite were the materials of choice. Low sightlines and flattened elliptical shapes further reinforced the thought that something as static as an armchair might just take off, Roadrunner-style.

Even today, the influence of American Streamlined Design is evident in everyday objects like bike helmets, running shoes, and choppers. Some, like the '54 Airstream Wanderer trailer, still sell like hot cakes while remaining virtually unchanged from their conception.

In any era, I think we have a tendency to become attached to our things because of the promises they make. And oh, what promises American Streamlined Design made: old ads featuring speed lines and bright colors proclaimed strength, greatness, functional beauty, and the shining promise of a future.

Discussion

7 Comments

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