American Made/ The US Design Resurgence at Design Miami/ 2012

2012 has seen an increasing amount of American design activity. Both historical and contemporary design is experiencing a reawakening of sorts, and Design Miami/ 2012 is one of the sites where galleries and designers are focusing specifically on the American perspective.

Though many of the galleries showing at Design Miami/ 2012 are based in the States, several of them specialize in works that are particular to American life and design. Moderne Gallery, located in historic city of Philadelphia, is internationally recognized for its specialization in works from the American Craft and Studio Movement from 1925-1990. A wood-paneled floor holds the incredibly carved pieces by American masters, highlighting the tradition of woodwork in the United States. George Nakashima‘s iconic Conoid Bench sits nearby a colossal cabinet of his. Chairs by Sam Maloof – whose work resides in some of the world’s most prestigious museums – as well as decorative objects by the renowned sculptor Wharton Esherick and ceramics by Peter Voulkos are also to be found there.

Where Moderne Gallery reaches for a studio-craft aesthetic, Mark McDonald, the preeminent dealer of mid-century American works, showcases designers that dealt in a decidedly modern (and very American) style defined by post-World War II innovations. The Charles and Ray Eames cabinets and chairs on display exhibit the combination of an assembly-line mentality with custom fabrication, and sit against bright primary-colored walls in a full Eames homage. An important collection of surreal jewelry by Art Smith is also being shown, highlighting the varied styles of this important African-American artist.

R20th Century is presenting historic work by the esteemed Wendell Castle, who will be giving a talk here at Design Miami/ 2012 as part of the Design Pioneers program. Curving lamps that integrate wood grain and bright, popping colors are on display as well as his uniquely shaped tables. These showcase his boundary-smashing work as a designer bent on creating functional sculptures that exist as fine art.

Besides the historically significant works, galleries are also showing American designers that exist at the forefront of the country’s design field. Volume Gallery is showing an exquisite set of benches and shelving by Snarkitecture, who also designed the entrance pavilion for the fair. Stark white and flat surfaces reveal craggily sculpted interiors that simulate rocks found in caves.

Finally, Mondo Cane  is showing a series of steeply-angled chairs and shelves by RO/LU studio, works which may appear in progress, yet have reached a refined destination. Hallmarks of a distincly American aesthetic – wood grain and bright, primary colors – run through the work. The amount of excitement surrounding contemporary American design as well as the renewed interest in its historical trajectory is obvious here at Design Miami/ 2012. The impact of the US on global trends, and the integration of foreign methods and styles that is so patently American, is on display. - American Made/  The US Design Resurgence at Design Miami/ 2012