The World of Charles and Ray Eames at Barbican Centre
When audiences are asked to refrain from taking pictures at an event, they surely endure an angst resembling being deprived of sweets as a child. To do this at an exhibition, featuring so many renowned design pieces, will certainly sadden avid art-show attendees missing a great number of Instagram opportunities. Nonetheless, viewing a retrospective of the work of Charles and Ray Eames without reducing these aesthetic experiences to a number of likes is the best way to honour their philosophy: design as a process to connect with the world.
This prolific American duo moved seamlessly through architecture, filmmaking, design, photography and exhibition making. Professing an interest in technology, mathematics and art, they were almost a 20th century-Renaissance couple. The World of Charles and Ray Eames shows their creative range with a mixture of furniture, drawings, models, magazine covers, artworks and films that reveal not only the fruits of their labour, but also its sources of inspiration.
The photographs and models of the Eames House, a modernist architectural jewel, provide a glimpse into how much art and design inspired their everyday lives. Powers of Ten, a film about the relativity of size, –from the width of a hair to the infiniteness of the universe,– proves that a passionate interest in the world’s topography and geometry was the major motivation behind the production of objects that literally shape lives. Some of their correspondence is showcased as well; endearing doodles and romantic messages are crucial to understand that the love they had for one another inspired their shared love for what they did.
Furthermore, to revisit these pieces in a contemporary context confirms that their ideas and creations are still part of today’s landscapes. The IBM Pavilion and its multimedia installations demonstrate how they opened the door for the technologically curious, creative people that would come after them— starting with Steve Jobs. Thus, the curatorial approach summons the marvellous and compelling characters that were Charles and Ray, and not only in regards to their work.
With all the technological mediations that exist today, it is easy to miss the Eames’s holistic celebration of design in everyday experience. On second thought, their work could be seen as a precursor to the present day’s image fetishism in social media. Interestingly and ironically, Charles and Ray might actually have been the original Instagrammers.
The World of Charles and Ray Eames is a temporary exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery from 21st Oct to 14th February 2016.
For further information about the exhibition and related events visit here