Modernism in Pittsburgh

Progressive Pittsburgh embraced modern art, architecture, and design

Pittsburgh, PA… Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) announces a group of exhibitions, running concurrently fall and winter, 2015–2016, celebrating modernism in Pittsburgh. Through extensive archival research, these exhibitions show a mid-century industrial city brimming with innovative architecture and design. They remind us that Pittsburgh has always been a hub of technology and creative industries, with developments here entering national conversations.

Concepts in Steel, 1961–63, consisted of dozens of renderings by Peter Muller-Munk Associates assembled as a brochure for US Steel to promote innovative ideas to architects and developers. PMMA archives; (C) United States Steel Corporation. Used with Permission

Concepts in Steel, 1961–63, consisted of dozens of renderings by Peter Muller-Munk Associates assembled as a brochure for US Steel to promote innovative ideas to architects and developers. PMMA archives; (C) United States Steel Corporation. Used with Permission

Hot Metal Modern: Design in Pittsburgh and Beyond (Charity Randall Gallery, opens September 26) is an excellent point of departure. The installation reveals the significant contributions of Pittsburgh-based designers and manufacturers in the development of 20th-century modernism.

HACLab Pittsburgh: Imagining the Modern (Heinz Architectural Center, September 12, 2015–May 2, 2016) is a bracing revelation. Using archival photography, drawings, and ephemera, this experimental presentation contextualizes the arrival of modern architecture in Pittsburgh during the 1950s and 1960s, a period of rapid change through urban renewal. And, it demonstrates how other cities held up Pittsburgh as an example of progressive urbanism.

Silver to Steel: The Modern Designs of Peter Muller-Munk (Heinz Galleries, November 21, 2015–April 11, 2016) introduces the creative mind behind Pittsburgh’s industry. In an era of manufacturing might, Muller-Munk’s design firm, Peter Muller-Munk Associates, designed products found in households across the country, and helped manufacturers push the boundaries of new materials for an international roster of clients.

Jane Haskell’s Modernism: A Pittsburgh Legacy (Gallery One, November 7, 2015–March 7, 2016) expresses a remarkable life living with, making, and giving great works of art. Explore the aesthetic sensibilities of Haskell, an artist, collector, advisor, and patron, through modernist artworks in CMOA’s collection that came from her own, or were purchased under her advisement, including Kandinsky, Malevich, Carrà, Picasso, and Stella.

 

About the Exhibitions

Hot Metal Modern
Opening September 26
Charity Randall Gallery, Hall of Sculpture

Reuben Haley, designer; Consolidated Lamp & Glass co., manufacturer; Ruba Rombic pitcher and glasses, 1928-1932; glass; Carnegie Museum of Art, Second Century Acquisition Fund

Reuben Haley, designer; Consolidated Lamp & Glass co., manufacturer; Ruba Rombic pitcher and glasses, 1928-1932; glass; Carnegie Museum of Art, Second Century Acquisition Fund

A new installation in CMOA’s Charity Randall Gallery, Hot Metal Modern: Design in Pittsburgh and Beyond reveals Pittsburgh as a major center of design, where avant-garde art met cutting edge materials that transformed America. From the roaring 1920s to the swinging 1960s, pioneers at Carnegie Institute of Technology, Kaufmann’s Department Store, and manufacturers such as Westinghouse, PPG, and ALCOA formed a collective network of brave experimentation, education, and promotion of progressive design.

Early 20th-century Pittsburgh was well-acquainted with “good design.” When Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. organized his Good Design exhibition series at MoMA (1950–55), he built upon family legacy. Kaufmann Sr. used his department store as a cultural centerpiece, transmitting modernism through market research and lectures, trained sales staff, lavish international exhibitions, and product buying offices in 27 cities abroad. Shoppers could buy home goods as “fresh as tomorrow’s newspaper”—including Cubist-inspired Ruba Rombic glassware and industrially chic McKay furniture.

In 1936, Carnegie Institute of Technology graduated the first industrial designer with a degree—and “he” was a woman. Hot Metal Modern shows the work of female students of this program in the 1930s and 1940s. And, during this period, regional manufacturers took a chance on now-iconic designers—including Eva Zeisel and Russel Wright—who once struggled to get their work produced. These partnerships created products that infused modern painterly and sculptural ideals in aluminum, ceramic, glass, steel, and cutting-edge plastics.

Hot Metal Modern showcases great design objects from around Pittsburgh, and the stories of innovation and industry behind them.

 

HACLab Pittsburgh: Imagining the Modern
Opening September 12
Heinz Architectural Center

Illustration from Allegheny Center: From a Rich Heritage, a New Way of Life… (brochure); Helmut Jacoby, renderer; Allegheny Center; Deeter & Ritchey, architect; Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, ca. 1962

Illustration from Allegheny Center: From a Rich Heritage, a New Way of Life… (brochure); Helmut Jacoby, renderer; Allegheny Center; Deeter & Ritchey, architect; Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, ca. 1962

The city of Pittsburgh encountered and was transformed by modern architecture in an ambitious program of urban revitalization in the 1950s and 1960s. HACLab Pittsburgh: Imagining the Modern untangles Pittsburgh’s complicated relationship with modern architecture and urban planning. This experimental presentation at Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center includes abundant archival materials from the period, an active architecture studio, and a salon-style discussion space, unearthing layers of history and a range of perspectives.

Architects-in-residence, the Boston-based studio over,under, highlight successive histories of pioneering architectural achievements, disrupted neighborhoods, utopian aspirations of public officials and business leaders, and Pittsburgh’s role as a model for the modern American city. These stories, addressed through photographs, films, drawings, documents, and other ephemera, reveal idealism and architectural ingenuity alongside public discourse and protest.

 

Jane Haskell’s Modernism: A Pittsburgh Legacy
Opening November 7
Gallery One

Herbert Seigle; Residence for Mr. and Mrs. Edward Haskell, Pittsburgh: loggia, 1955; black ink and pale green wash on paper; Carnegie Museum of Art, Gift of Jane Haskell

Herbert Seigle; Residence for Mr. and Mrs. Edward Haskell, Pittsburgh: loggia, 1955; black ink and pale green wash on paper; Carnegie Museum of Art, Gift of Jane Haskell

An artist, collector, advocate, and patron, Jane Haskell (1923–2013) lived with art, and she gave significant artworks to CMOA. Jane Haskell’s Modernism presents artworks originally from her own collection, along with works from CMOA’s collection. As a board member and donor, Haskell helped the museum collect more than 50 works that reflect crucial international developments in abstract art over the course of the 20th century, including pieces by Kazimir Malevich, Vassily Kandinsky, Carlo Carrà, El Lissitzky, Pablo Picasso, Frank Stella, Eva Hesse, Richard Long, and Dan Flavin.

Jane Haskell’s Modernism is presented as a complement to Jane Haskell: Drawing in Light, an exhibition of her artwork at the American Jewish Museum at the The Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, on view from October 20, 2015 to February 19, 2016.

 

Silver to Steel: The Modern Designs of Peter Muller-Munk
Opening November 21, 2015
Heinz Galleries

Peter Muller-Munk Associates Silex Air-Lift steam iron, 1949 Carnegie Museum of Art, Gift of Jewel Stern; Photo: Dallas Museum of Art

Peter Muller-Munk Associates
Silex Air-Lift steam iron, 1949
Carnegie Museum of Art, Gift of Jewel Stern; Photo: Dallas Museum of Art

Peter Muller-Munk was a brilliant silversmith, a pioneering industrial designer and educator, and a visionary spokesperson for his profession. Silver to Steel is the first retrospective of his four-decade career.

With more than 120 works of hand-wrought silver and popular mid-century products, supported by drawings and multimedia interviews, and playfully incorporating period advertising, the exhibition presents the untold story of a man who rose from anonymity as a young silversmith at Tiffany & Co. to become a crucial postwar fulcrum, promoting the practice of industrial design across the globe via a top American design consultancy: Pittsburgh’s Peter Muller-Munk Associates (PMMA).

The exhibition opens with Muller-Munk’s celebrated Modernist silver of the 1920s and 1930s. His best-known designs—the streamlined Normandie pitcher (1935) and the skyscraper-inspired Waring Blendor (1937)—reveal his transition from silversmith to industrial designer and herald an eye-opening presentation of his mass-produced objects. These highly functional and visually striking designs include Bell & Howell cameras, Westinghouse radios and appliances, Griswold cookware, Val Saint Lambert tableware, Porter-Cable power tools, Texaco gas stations and corporate identities, and prototypes in new materials for US Steel. For all its clients the PMMA firm addressed the challenges of a surging postwar consumer culture with vigor and intelligence, producing designs that pleased consumers and became highly successful in the marketplace.

Support
General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. The programs of the Heinz Architectural Center are made possible by the generosity of the Drue Heinz Trust. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Carnegie Museum of Art
Located at 4400 Forbes Avenue in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, it is nationally and internationally recognized for its distinguished collection of American and European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 19th century to the present. Founded in 1896, the Carnegie International is one of the oldest surveys of contemporary art worldwide. The Heinz Architectural Center, part of Carnegie Museum of Art, is dedicated to enhancing understanding of the built environment through its exhibitions, collections, and public programs. The Hillman Photography Initiative serves as an incubator for innovative thinking about the photographic image. For more information about Carnegie Museum of Art, call 412.622.3131 or visit our website at www.cmoa.org.

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