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November 9 2001
by Ken Johnson

What was modernism? A historical era? A period style? An ideology? A religion? A state of mind? It was all that and more.The age that extended (depending on whom you ask) from sometime after the Civil War to sometime after World War 2 was one of scientific and technological optimism,of expanding personal and social freedoms and accelerating material abundance.It was a time when a future of unparalleled prosperity and unlimited possibility seemed at hand. That the age of Modernism came to an end is by no means universally accepted,but for many who think it did,its demise coincided with the war in Vietnam. Since then, they argue, the world has been one of diminishing expectations, of uncertainty and doubt. It seems no longer clear, especially now, that all problems must succumb to technological innovation. "Modernism: A century of Art and Design" is not an exhibition overseen by a curator, but a lavish antiques fair. it consists of 54 American and European dealers offering high-end artifacts, from Arts and Crafts works of the late 19th century to Art Deco objects from the 1920's, from futuristic furniture of the 50's to funky Menphis-style designs of the 1980's. Still, it is hard to contemplate the beatiful material culture of Modernism and the faith in human reason and creativity it embodies without thinking about the different, darker and scarier mood of today. More to the point, of the five autumn fairs annually produced in New York by Sanford L. Smith & Associates, "Modernism" is the only one that has not been canceled this year. It was denied access to its usual quarters, the Seventh Regiment Armory, which is occupied by the National Guard. But its new site, in a white cast-iron building on 23rd Street off Fifth Avenue, is a fine substitute. There is plenty of space, and though some 20 fewer dealers than usual are present, the show still abounds in beautiful objects tastefully displayed, including furniture, ceramics, glass, jewerly, posters and fine art. In fact,there is far too much to absorb in just one visit. A good way to start is to stroll around, zero in on whatever catches your eye and then move on. Some of the more remarkable pieces include an adorable Wurlitzer baby grand piano with half circle body and a double-wing "butterfly" lid, at the Skyscraper booth; a 1905 mahogany and brass clock in the form of a rustic house, at James infante; a flamboyant Art Nouveau vase with sinuously twisted handles and an almost psychedelic surface of flowers and iridescent green glaze, at Turn of the Century; and, at Sarah Latham-kearns, a cheerful epitome of 60's Pop sensibility - a long black dress designed by Rudi Gernreich and appliqued with brightly patterned flowers and circles. After you initial survey, you might want to delve deeper into certain specialties. Chat with a few dealers and you may learn more than you ever thought you would know about, say, Alchymia, the italian predecessor of the Memphis design group (at R 20th Century) or about the American Craft Movement furniture of george Nakashima, Sam mallof and Wendell castle (at Moderne).Frank Rogin is presenting an exhibition of furniture by the French designer Rene' Gabriel. In the 1930's Gabriel gave Arts and Crafts design a lighter,more delicate flair and his name deserves to be better known.




Frank Rogin Inc. is now a private gallery. We can be reached by phone or e-mail.
Phone: 212 431 6545 | E-mail: info@rogin.com
Frank Rogin 2008. All Rights Reserved

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