Monday, October 24, 2016

How a Leg Splint Shaped the Eames Chair

Before Charles and Ray Eames sculpted plywood into undulating furniture, they refined their techniques on medical devices. During World War II, the United States Navy engaged the American design duo in creating a new leg splint. The result was an object both beautiful and practical, with its biomorphic curves that delicately protected a wounded leg.
"The Body Extended: Sculpture and Prosthetics" at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, England, includes one of the Eames leg splints in its exploration of prosthetics and modern art. Nearby is Louise Bourgeois’s 1985 “Henriette” bronze disembodied leg sculpture, a tribute to her sister’s disability, as well Martin Boyce’s “Phantom and Fall” that uses pieces of an Eames leg splint in an Alexander Calder-like mobile. It responds to the brutality and playfulness of the 1930s and 40s, as well as the uncomfortable dissociation of form from function in our appreciation of postwar design. 

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Installation view of ‘The Body Extended: Sculpture and Prosthetics’ (courtesy Henry Moore Institute)