SAN DIEGO, CA.- Mingei International Museum is the organizing institution of Masters of Mid-Century California Modernism — Evelyn and Jerome Ackerman, a comprehensive retrospective presented to the public for the first time. The exhibition is an overview of the Ackerman’s 50-year collaborative partnership, focusing on their outstanding work in decorative art and design and highlighting their central role as designer-craftsmen who helped to shape the California Mid-Century Modern style. The exhibition, which opens March 29 and continues through October 18, is curated by Jo Lauria and Dale Carolyn Gluckman.
Masters of Mid-Century California Modernism chronicles the journey of two immensely creative individuals from their independent studio training through their 50-year career as highly successful production designers. This first retrospective explores the Ackermans’ collaboration in design and decorative arts and highlights their cross-disciplinary approach. These Los Angeles-based artists shared their interest in, and devotion to, the principles of modern design — as defined by the Bauhaus philosophy of integrating fine art and craftsmanship with industrial practices to produce quality products. Using their deep knowledge of art history, traditional craft and folk art, the Ackermans have created a body of work remarkable for its diversity of styles, techniques and materials.
A joining of complementary talents has been the hallmark of their endeavors. Evelyn (b. 1924), trained in painting and drawing, brought to this design marriage an eye for composition and color along with expert draftsmanship. She brought both considerable artistic talent and technical ability which are immediately evident in her designs for textiles and carved wood elements and in the design and execution of enamels and mosaics. Jerome (b. 1920), with a masters’ degree in ceramic design from Alfred University, brought to the partnership expertise in ceramic production. In addition, with a keen business sense he promoted their studio output and limited production lines through independent sales representatives and design showrooms. The result has been an important corpus of work that is now being newly appreciated by design historians and a new generation of consumers and collectors.
The couple established their first company, Jenev Design Studio, in Los Angeles in 1953. In 1956 it became ERA Industries, Inc. Reviving traditional techniques in innovative ways, the design studios produced home accessories, furniture and architectural elements in various media — ceramics, textiles, wood, mosaics and metalwork. Unique to the Ackermans was their ability to move fluidly between abstract modernism and figurative stylization in their designs. This characteristic permeates all their work but is particularly apparent in their varied and prolific textile and ceramic production.
The years 1950 to 1975 saw Los Angeles become a major center of modernist design, particularly in home furnishings. The Ackermans were a vital part of this creative energy and at the forefront of the movement which is now referred to as California Mid-Century Modern. In addition to receiving several notable commissions, their work has been featured in major exhibitions throughout the United States. The Ackermans hold the rare distinction of being included in every exhibition of the prestigious series California Design (1954 to 1976) held primarily at the former Pasadena Art Museum. The couple has been the subject of many articles in the local and national press, and their works are in many significant public and private collections.
During the exhibition, the publication Made in California: Art, Image & Identity – 1900 – 2000 by Stephanie Barrie, Sheri Bernstein and Ilene Susan Fort will be available for purchase in The Collectors’ Gallery museum store.
Located at 1439 El Prado in Balboa Park, Mingei International Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday,10 am – 4 pm, and closed on Mondays and national holidays. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for students and active military with ID. For information, call 619-239-0003 or visit www.mingei.org.
Mingei International Museum exhibits folk art, craft and design from all eras and cultures of the world. Its two museums – in San Diego and Escondido – feature Southern California’s largest collection of mingei – art of the people. The Museum store, The Collectors’ Gallery, features handmade gifts from around the world.
Financial support is provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture. Mingei International Museum is funded in part by the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Program.