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Inspiration and the Eames

The Eames are everywhere. Design blogs spill over with images of their iconic furniture. They’re stars in LACMA’s Pacific Standard Time exhibition, California Design, 1930-1965: “Living in a Modern Way (as well as others).  Ice Cube professed his admiration for them. But as a new documentary shows, though they may have started with a chair, their real impact lies in the multi-faceted nature of their work and the unfettered creativity they brought to their four decade long career. Like Ice Cube said, “They were doing mash-ups before mash-ups even existed.”

A few months ago, Richard McCoy – the IMA’s Conservator of Objects and Variable Art – and Tricia Gilson conducted a two part interview on Art21’s blog with Daniel Ostroff, a consultant for Herman Miller and producer/editor of, a website rich with information about the Eames and their work. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s a must-read (part one here, part two here).

The IMA will continue the celebration of this dynamic duo tomorrow with a screening of Eames: The Architect and the Painter in the Toby at 7pm. Come and see if it sparks any ideas of your own. As Charles Eames said, “Ideas are cheap. Always be passionate about ideas and communicating those ideas and discoveries to others in the things you make.”


Venetian Views: The Grand Canal

Though divided by thousands of miles of water and differences in language, what is one thing that Indianapolis and Venice have in common? Canals! Though Venice’s infrastructure is based on these waterways, the original purpose of the Indiana Central Canal was to provide a trade route, connecting the Wabash and Erie Canal to the Ohio River. Due to budgetary shortfalls, the full scope of the project was never completed, with the operational Canal now serving as a place of recreation, adding to the beauty of our city.

Here’s the Central Canal in 1894, in a work from the IMA’s collection by Richard Buckner Gruelle:

Richard Buckner Gruelle, "The Canal Morning Effect," 1894, John Herron Fund.

Venice’s Grand Canal also has its roots in trade, and provides the main connecting thoroughfare in the heart of Venice.  We’ve been getting to know the Grand Canal very well – it’s our main route to and from the U.S. Pavilion and the evening events (that is – when we’re not walking, which is another experience in itself!).  Here’s a work by Vaughn Trowbridge (featured in the Venetian Views exhibition!) created eleven years after Gruelle’s view of the Indiana Canal:

Vaughn Trowbridge, "The Grand Canal, Venice," 1905; Bequest to Delavan Smith.

And here a photo of the Grand Canal today, as we head towards work:

The boats have been updated, and it’s definitely more crowded (and even more so, now that the Biennale crowd has kicked in), but a lot remains the same from that 1905 artwork.  Being surrounded by that level of preserved history is something we are conscious of every day, even if it means reminding ourselves to pause in between work to look around and take it all in.  Plus, it’s been pretty surreal taking a boat to work every day – maybe it’s something I should look at working into my IMA commute?


The Artworks of “Gloria”

So we’ve told you behind-the-scenes stories, you’ve heard about Venice, and you’ve heard from some of the people who’ve made this incredible project happen.  But we haven’t yet described (or, at least, attempted to) what it’s like to experience Allora & Calzadilla’s works in person.  You may have seen a few of the articles (or shall we say, raves?) that have come out in the recent days about the U.S. Pavilion and its reception at the Biennale (such as this one, this one, this one, or even this one), and each one does a wonderful job of capturing the atmosphere of the exhibition.  For me, it’s the often-surprising details that surface around each work that have quickly become my favorite parts of Gloria. Here are a few little tidbits that I’ve particularly enjoyed about each:

The first thing you encounter at the Pavilion – and really, when it’s running, throughout much of the Giardini – is the massive upside-down tank and treadmill, Track and Field. I’d seen pictures and renderings, and heard stories about the sheer size of this thing, but it’s hard to imagine the – I guess overwhelming, is the best word – feeling of being next to those fast-moving treads.  The runner on top of the treadmill actually can control the speed of the tank, based on how fast he or sets the treadmill to run.  Olympian Dan O’Brien performed today for a packed crowd at the press conference (see him in this great slideshow here) and I heard him tell the artists that one of the most difficult parts was not getting too distracted by the moving treads on the side, and to focus straight ahead instead.  And speaking of those treads, check these things out:

Allora & Calzadilla, "Track and Field," 2011. U.S. Pavilion, 54th International Art Exhibition, presented by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Photo by Andrew Bordwin.

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Venetian Views: St. Mark’s Square

On June 3rd, the exhibition Venetian Views: American Works on Paper opens at the IMA, featuring works by American artists who visited Venice in the 18th and 19th century, and an interesting complement to the contemporary works on display at the Biennale.  As Adam Thomas, the Weisenberger Fellow of American Art who worked on this exhibition, said, “ The exhibition offers IMA visitors the opportunity to reflect upon Venice as an artistic center and explore the lasting fascination that the city has had for artists, particularly American artists. It is also interesting to note that artists included in the exhibition participated in early incarnations of the Venice Biennale: Whistler in 1895 and 1897; and Sargent in 1897.”

The works in the collection feature many of Venice’s most popular highlights, including St. Mark’s Square, or Piazza San Marco.  The Piazza is the principal square in Venice, with the massive Basilica dominating one side.  Now thronged with tourists, it’s one of the rare vast open spaces in the city, with lots to explore on all sides. Henry James wrote, “It’s not easy to catch the real complexion of St. Mark’s…if you cannot paint these things you can at least grow fond of them.” Many artists have attempted it, and seeing their impression of this kinetic (and often frenetic) place gives you a glimpse into a specific moment.  However, at the same time, though many years and people have passed by, it’s interesting to also see how little has actually changed.

One of the works that features the Piazza in Venetian Views is this work by Frank Duveneck from 1883:

Frank Duveneck, "Piazza San Marco," 1883, gift of Frank Duveneck and L.H. Meakin.

Another incredible example from the IMA’s collection, is this one by Canaletto from 1735. The light in the square still looks like this:

Canaletto, "View of the Piazzetta San Marco Looking South," about 1735, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Elijah B. Martindale.

Still a meeting place, the amount of people has (just slightly) increased today:


Hello, Venice!

Claude Monet, "The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice;" 1908; The Lockton Collection.

“It seemed in the distance like a floating city, its domes, spires, cupolas, and towers, glittering in the sunbeams, and looked so glorious, that I could have fancied it one of those optical illusions presented by a mirage.” – Marguerite, Countess of Blessington, 1882.

Paris may be the City of Light, but nothing can quite compare to the luminescence of Venice.  Monet – in this work from the IMA’s collection – highlights this experience better than most, with his masterful approach to capturing the reflections of water and light.

In addition to showing you the behind-the-scenes workings at the Biennale, I’ll be highlighting works in the IMA’s collection that relate to Venice – plus an upcoming exhibition of artists who, similar to us, traveled here from America and documented what they saw.

The last group of IMA staffers arrived today, ready for a busy opening week.  It’s not exactly Monet, but here’s a glimpse of  the light at play in Venice, soon after I arrived in town:


About Rachel Craft

Job Title: Director of Publishing and Media
Interests: travel, film photography, the great outdoors, food, fashion, music, all things vintage.
Favorite Movies: Butch Cassidy, The Godfather, Rear Window, Sunset Boulevard, The Graduate, classic movies in general.
Favorite Music: 60s soul, Tom Waits, Devendra Banhart, jazz/swing, Stevie Nicks, Kanye
Favorite Food: Pretty much everything. I could eat Indian, Vietnamese, or Thai food at every meal.
Pets: I have a cat named Vito Corleone. He's much more cuddly than his namesake.
Something Extra: My knowledge of pop culture is pretty expansive, and I watch way more teenage melodramas than I should probably admit.

Rachel has written 16 articles for us.