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Design

“Pathmakers” at MAD Reframes The History of Women in Art and Craft

By Eliza Jordan

May 20, 2015

Over 100 works by 42 female artists are now on view at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York. “Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today” focuses on the impact of women’s craft work in textiles, ceramics, metals, and the like, dating back to the 1950s, when most professional art recognition was given to men. “We aim to expand the historical view of the postwar period, to showcase important artists and designers, and to introduce names that have been overlooked,” said exhibition curator Jennifer Scanlan of the goal of the show.

During the same time period in which women were creating a professional identity in craft and design, MAD itself, founded by art visionary Aileen Webb in 1956, emerged as home for showcasing the American modern craft movement, and seemingly matured alongside these influential women. Since its inception, the museum has focused on including an equal amount of works from both males and females, and this is the first time the museum has dedicated multiple floors for an all-female project. “’Pathmakers’ places women at the center of the midcentury modernist narrative, and makes a powerful case for the importance of craft and design media as professional pathways,” said Glenn Adamson, MAD’s director.

Hella Jongerius’ work, which showcases her redesign of the United Nations delegates’ lounge, features privacy-based computer shields for desks and her two-story curtain of beads (which, due to U.N. security restrictions, has been altered and re-created to not give away any exact dimensions or details). Known for her work with industrial materials, and for highlighting the differences between masculine and feminine consumers, Vivian Beer has displayed her “Candy Chair,” a furniture structure resembling both a stiletto heel and a sleek sports car. Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmesniemi‘s two large circular graphic patterns, look like fine art, but are intentionally for the body. Marianne Strengell‘s aluminum rug—80% aluminum, 20% wool and viscose is on display, representing her campaign for new uses of aluminum just after World War II.

Other notable works include Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe’s mirrored watch, the “Vivianna Bangle Watch,” which dons no clasp and no time-tellers; Ruth Asawa’s hanging wire sculptures that first gained significant attention in 2006 when she was 80 years old; design trio Front’s shower concept design; and Polly Apfelbaum’s 30-part installation of patterned textiles colored from stencils and rainbow markers.

After its closing day on September 27, “Pathmakers” will travel to the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., where it will be on display from October 30, 2015- February 28, 2016.

Aileen WebbCandy ChairCraft and DesignEliza JordanFrontGlenn AdamsonHella JongeriusJennifer ScanlanMarianne StrengellMidcentury and TodayMuseum of Arts and DesignNanette L. LaitmanPathmakers: Women in ArtPolly ApfelbaumRuth AsawaVivian BeerVivianna Bangle WatchVivianna Torun Bülow-HübeVuokko Eskolin-NurmesniemiVuokko Nurmesniemi OyWhitewallWhitewallerWWII

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