Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Digging through the crates

When I was asked for a quote from Paul McCobb to put into the brochure for Reform Gallery’s Paul McCobb/Directional Design exhibit at the Los Angeles Antiques Show I figured that it wouldn’t be too difficult finding something appropriate. I wasn’t exactly hard pressed for material after all. McCobb was interviewed frequently during the 50’s and 60’s and I have literally thousands of articles to choose from. The challenge was to find something simple, succinct and to the point. 

As it turns out much of McCobb’s interviews are not at all about design or process but rather tend towards giving helpful hints to homemakers. In fact there is an entire series of articles doing just that, making suggestions to homemakers about how to go about decorating their homes; tips and tricks to aid in providing a “light, airy and spacious” home in a time of shrinking rooms and diminishing scale of the household environment. Great stuff from a historical standpoint, but not exactly sexy. 

McCobb was also a great champion of the American contemporary furniture movement, defending it repeatedly in print. His being one of the prime moving forces behind this faction of American designers it’s easy to understand why he would speak frequently and passionately about the design trend of which he was such an integral part. 

Unfortunately this material was not what I was looking for. What I really wanted was some few words or a phrase which would sum up Paul McCobb in a nutshell. Finding this was turning out to be not quite so easy as I thought it would be. But, as I’ve learned through the past few years doing this research, persistence pays, and after scanning through the material at my disposal for some time I finally found something which was EXACTLY what I was looking for, a precise summation of everything I knew Paul McCobb to be.

"Design appeal is based on integrity of form, simplicity of line, and true organic function."

- Paul McCobb

Interiors July, 1952

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tables by Lane

Over the past few years I have become increasingly aware of the necessity for context in research. At the very beginning of this project I was so narrowly focussed on getting information about Paul McCobb that I ignored anything else that wasn’t about McCobb. For instance, when I scanned the 1962 Lane catalog I entirely ignored the rest of it, only scanning those pages which dealt directly with Paul McCobb’s work. I later regretted this decision but there was really nothing to do about it as the catalog was in California and I wasn’t.

Fortunately life has conspired to make it so that I can finally right this egregious oversight, Gerard O’Brien of Reform Gallery (the fellow who has the Lane catalog) having decided to show select pieces from his Paul McCobb collection at the upcoming Los Angeles Antiques and Los Angeles Modernism shows at the Barker Hanger this April has called me in to work with him co-producing these Paul McCobb retrospectives, which means that once again I find myself in Los Angeles for an extended period of time with unrestricted access to what might be the very best privately held mid-century design research library on the planet. Yay!

While I am here, besides working around the clock getting the two shows up, I am also going back over the ground which I have already covered in my Paul McCobb research (in my off hours...) and this time making sure to acquire the background information to provide context to my main research materials. Amongst other things I have finally gotten a complete scan of that 1962 Lane Catalog.

Now I’m not about to blurt out everything I have learned about Paul McCobb’s involvement with Lane, after all I have to save something for the book which I have been diligently but ever so slowly putting together. What I would like to provide is some context in the form of identifying information for the other Lane groups in existence at the time Paul McCobb was designing for the company. So, without further preamble, here they are in the order in which they appear in the 1962 "Tables that make your room are made by Lane" catalog:

Dimension - Group # 1003
Acclaim - Group #900
Hy-Lite - Group #’s 928, 929, 930
Tuxedo - Group #921
New Amsterdam - Group #957
Chatham Hall - Group #958 and 959
Monte Carlo - Group #973
Award - Group #966 and 972
Rhythm - Group #997
Lido - Group #’s 975, 978, 994
Cosmopolitan - Group #209
Esteem - Group #983
Prophecy - Group #996 and 1006
Accent - Group #991
Calais - Group #’s 953, 954, 955, 956, 968, 969
Capri - Group #999
Regal - Group #1002
Perception - Group #908 and 990
Cameo - Group #967