The end of World War I in Europe marked the beginning of "Le style moderne" - a time of unprecedented creativity in the fine, decorative and performing arts that lasted, at least officially, until 1939. That period of vibrant expression has come to be known as "Art Deco", a term that resonates with energy, elegance and style just like the era itself!
In a small but superb exhibition now on at the New York Public Library, the curator pulls from the Library's extensive holdings of Art Deco graphics to put together an informative and visually stunning collection of prime examples of the period. With Gershwin music playing in the background, "Art Deco Design: Rhythm and Verve" explores the origins of the movement - its evolution from Art Nouveau into the machine age - and the impact on design that continues today.
This is one of my favorite periods in art history and visitors to my website already know that I always carry a selection of prints from the 1920's by such archetypal artists and designers such as Edouard Benito, Sonia Delaunay, and the fabulous Eugène Seguy, who are also represented in this show.
This exhibition showcases another one of my favorite subjects - the pochoir technique of printing. In this painstaking and labor intensive method of coloration artists used stencil plates (a separate stencil cut for each color field) and hand-applied vibrant watercolors and gouaches to produce luxurious prints that epitomize the boldness and intensity of the Art Deco movement.
Alas, times changed, the Great Depression and World War 2 ensued, and the era of bathtub gin and Josephine Baker came to an end. But the Art Deco epoch left an indelible mark on our psyche and remains the gold standard of romance and progress. Treat yourself to a visual feast and a quick trip back to the Roaring Twenties and visit the New York Public Library soon! The exhibition is free and remains on view until January 11, 2009.