By Kai Freeman.
Earlier in this quarter, on Friday, March 2, the Jen Library presented an exhibition of some of the most intriguing works in the library’s collection. Using Room 201, they showcased, as you might expect, magazines and books; all of the literature was nonfiction; and most was about art — at least in the general sense. Specific topics ranged from architecture, to furniture design, to the women who worked in Walt Disney’s animation department. There were also movies; “My Life as a Zucchini,” “Moon Man,” and “Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” among them.
The books and Blu-rays were laid flat on tables. Walking in, the path followed the tables snaking their way around the room, starting and ending at the door. Some guests didn’t follow the path, rather bounced around a bit, maybe noticing from across the room the magazines on their stands. There were rows of chairs in the middle of the room, as well, facing the television at the front of the room that played the documentary “Eames: The Architect and the Painter.”
The documentary centered on the husband and wife design team Charles and Ray Eames — their work, accomplishments, etc. On the table under the TV were some books relating to Eames’ designs and their work. As the film explains, Ray was a painter of some renown before she met Charles, an architect. After they married, Ray joined Charles’s architectural practice and they collaborated on many buildings together. They also expanded into designing furniture: their Eames Plywood Lounge Chair became highly sought after, mimicked and has since profoundly reshaped the design of chairs.
The pair also codirected over 100 short films together – “Day of the Dead” (1957), “Kaleidoscope Jazz Chair” (1960) and “Powers of Ten” (1968) being only a few – notable examples of their prolific output. Not only that, but they put on a few exhibitions in different museums as well. The documentary noted the disappointment of one particular exhibit: “The Word of Franklin and Jefferson” (1975), and how it’s failure crushed Charles. The couple had some other pursuits as well, but that covers the general gist of their work.
I could appreciate and enjoy immersing myself in the world of Charles and Ray Eames, just as I could imagine myself enjoying reading through National Geographic or watching “Wings of Desire.” All of the items on display are part of the Jen Library’s permanent collection, so I suppose I’ll just have to come again.