Monday, October 26, 2015

A critical point of view on "The World Of Charles and Ray Eames" at Barbican Art Gallery

Article by Tabish Khan -
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It's safe to say that design and architecture wouldn't be what it is today without the work of couple Charles and Ray Eames. Their use of functional clean lines has influenced many modern buildings and a huge amount of contemporary furniture, including pretty much everything Ikea makes. But their design skills stretched much further with aeroplane stabilisers, magazine covers and a stretcher all part of their collective portfolio.

This exhibition aims to showcase the breadth of their work and provide an insight into their personal lives using photographs, videos, models, toys and chairs... lots of chairs. Fans of furniture design and the Eames's won't be disappointed by the vast amounts of items on display. But what about the rest of us who may not be familiar with the pair's work and legacy?

This is where the exhibition comes a cropper. While it bombards us with information and products, photos and videos to look at; there doesn't seem to be a narrative that's easy to follow. It's a sprawling show and it's difficult to know what to take away from it — this isn't helped by the fact there isn't a closing room or even a simple video that looks at how modern designers and architects are being influenced by the pioneering work of the duo.

The exhibition would have been better served with fewer items on display and more focal points throughout the show, a greater use of architectural models and finished products would have been much appreciated; alas we were only provided with notes, blueprints and photographs of a lot of their creations. There are a few examples of this including a living room of their furniture and a set of their toys, but these are the exceptions.

It's a heartfelt love letter to Charles and Ray Eames, but without the context and legacy, we often felt like a third wheel wandering this sizeable show looking for a guideline to latch on to. We left the exhibition feeling impressed by the work of the Eames's but unfulfilled. Considering the ticket price and the scale of this exhibition we were expecting a lot more.

Ph. courtesy: Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images