When asked, a good portion of people would admit in charmingly sheepish self-consciousness to have at one point believed that Ray Eames (December 15, 1912 – August 21, 1988) was a man. Ray, of course, is not a man. She is the remarkable painter-turned-designer-and-filmmaker who, together with her husband Charles, revolutionized not only the aesthetic of modernist design but also its popular understanding as an omnipresent bastion of contemporary culture.
While Charles arrived at design through architecture, Ray did through painting — and as the two intertwined their singular talents at that shared intersection, they ushered in a new era of design, pioneering not only new technologies like their now-iconic fiberglass and wire mesh chairs, but also a new ethos that held design to now-sacrosanct standards of utility underpinned by elegance, simplicity, and beauty. Their films, most notably the inventive Powers of Ten explainer of the scale of the universe (which was even turned into a flipbook), enlisted principles of design in illuminating various aspects of how the world works.
Between the 1940s and the 1980s, the Eames Office at 901 Washington Boulevard in Venice served as a haven for a number of notable designers, including Harry Bertoia and Gregory Ain, the Eames’s engineer during WWII, who marveled at Ray’s ability to “bring things into relation with one another [and] find the inner order in whatever she touched.”
The work and legacy of the Eameses was profiled in the wonderful PBS documentary Eames: The Architect and the Painter.
So the universe is not quite as you thought it was. You’d better rearrange your beliefs, then. Because you certainly can’t rearrange the universe.
Isaac Asimov in The Gods Themselves
Song: “Better Change Your Mind” by William Onyeabor
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