The Minnesota Chapter of DOCOMOMO— the acronym for the nonprofit stands for the DOcumentation and COnservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the MOdern Movement—is always coming up with new ways of whetting our appetites for all things midcentury modern. On March 23, the volunteer-based organization presents a new film, Eames: The Architect and the Painter, in Rapson Hall at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Narrating the film is none other than the ubiquitous writer, artist, actor, producer and heartthrob James Franco. To reserve your free spot, RSVP here.
In the first film made about Charles and Ray Eames since their deaths, filmmakers Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey take a deep dive into the professional artistic collaborations and complex personal lives as a couple. The domestic designs and architecture they innovated issued in the “Eames Era” in post war America, and the global impact of their singular aesthetic continues today. We asked Katherine Stalker, a Docomomo US/MN board member, for her perspective on the film and the famous couple’s seminal work.
Why has Docomomo brought this movie to us now?
Every year, Docomomo US/MN screens a film that highlights an aspect of the modern movement. Last year, we showed Maison Tropicale, a fascinating but somewhat esoteric documentary on Jean Prouvé’s work. This year, we decided to select a film with broader appeal. With the resurgence of interest in midcentury modern design, and especially furniture, Charles and Ray Eames have become household names. Eames: The Architect and the Painter is a feature film that explores their relationship, their creative process, and the lasting impact of their work.
Why should homeowners see this film? What will they take away from it?
The Eameses had a remarkable ability to find creative solutions for complex problems, even across disciplines. They applied what we call today “design thinking” to the creation of living spaces, furniture, industrial objects, films, exhibitions, and more.
Whether homeowners plan to build new, remodel, or even just select and arrange furniture, they might find inspiration in the approach of the Eames Office, and how the Eameses looked beyond aesthetics. As Charles Eames liked to say, “We don’t make art; we solve problems.”
As proof that their creative process was effective, many of their products are still in production today. For homeowners who own or have considered purchasing an Eames chair, the film illuminates the philosophy behind the furniture, with its ties to Cranbrook Academy and wartime technologies. Their innovative production methods and materials continue to make high quality design accessible to a great number of people.
Why are the Eameses still so relevant to our understanding of residential design?
There’s a certain timelessness to their designs because they focused on what it means to live comfortably. The Eameses’ philosophy of creating an “unselfconscious” enclosure meant that residents could customize the interior, based on their own ideas and needs. Case Study House 8, designed by and lived in by Charles and Ray, was filled with a constantly evolving collection of items that held personal meaning. Their playful designs played an important role in defining postwar modernism in the U.S., which is experiencing a new wave of appreciation.
by Camille Lefevre