There was time, around the year 2000, when the notion of organic design was placed at the forefront of design discussion. “Vital Forms: American Art and Design in the Atomic Age, 1940-1960,” an exhibition opened at the Brooklyn Museum in 2002, and David Pearson’s pivotal publication on organic architecture, published in 2001, just to name two influential works in the discourse of organic design. Now, Friedman Benda Gallery is opening a show “The Garden in the Machine: Organic Design 1930 to the Present,” which comes to revisit the discussion. Legendary American architect Eliot Noyes famously defined organic design in the catalog of his seminal show “Organic Design In Home Furnishings” opened at MoMA in 1940 as where “harmonious organization of the parts within the whole according to structure, material, and purpose.” The new show, curated by James Zemaitis and Jennifer Olshin, comes to explore the various manifestations of organic design by schools and modes spanning nearly a hundred years. From the exhibitions organized by Noyes and Edgar Kauffmann at MoMA in the 30s, 40s, and 50s and French mid-century design, through the organic expression of the members of the American Studio Movement of the 60s and the 70s, to Ron Arad, Marc Newson, and Joris Laarman who represent those creating organic forms in contemporary design. Its title, an homage to “The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America,” the 1964 work of Leo Marx, on interruption of pastoral scenery by technology due to the industrialization of America during the 19th and 20th century. Photos: Courtesy of Friedman Benda. Photography by Adam Reich.
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