Thursday, June 27, 2013

MAGNUSSON-GROSSMAN, GRETA: A Pioneering Modernist (c) By Polly Guerin

Greta Magnusson Grossman
In the hallmark of women designers of the Deco era, Swedish born, Greta Magnusson Grossman’s work may never have achieved the same level of fame as that of many of her contemporaries, but she was a woman determined to succeed in a world dominated by men. A Swedish furniture designer and architect her work appeared alongside other midcentury greats such as Charles and Ray Eames and her prolific oeuvre continues to attract a loyal following. She designed in diverse genres with achievements in industrial design, interior design and architecture. Later in life she received two prestigious Good Design Awards from MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and yet for a time she faded into relative obscurity, until now, as some of her iconic pieces are being brought back into production.  
SUCCESS IN SWEDEN In 1930 Greta opened her first store/workshop called
American Modern: Lightweight Furniture
“Studio” in Stockholm with classmate Erik Ullrich, where she took numerous commissions, including a crib for Sweden’s Princess Birgitta.  Accolades and recognition poured in and she became the first woman to receive a prize for furniture design from the Swedish Society of Industrial Design. Greta’s success followed her to California and by this time she had married jazz bandleader Billy Grossman. Greta opened her second shop, Magnusson-Grossman Studio, on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. Her shop with its avant guard design appealed to the rich and famous and  became  popular with design cognoscenti and stars of the silver screen like Greta Garbo, Joan Fontaine and Gracie Allen . 
WEIGHTLESS DESIGN Celebrities were not her main clients. Grossman’s compact, functional and visually lightweight modern aesthetic appealed to a previously ignored, but every-growing demographic: single, savvy, career-minded women. Her walnut and iron desk for Glenn of California, an icon of California modern, reflects Greta’s ability to mix heavy materials in designs that seem weightless; even a box for supplies appears to float above the work surface.  Some pieces, like her Cobra Lamp has recently been brought back into production by Gubi.  Among her clients were several famous furniture companies, including Barker Brothers and Ralph O. Smith &Co. and Glenn of California.
AMERICAN MODERNISM  In California Greta became a prominent figure in the experimental architecture world and was known for building homes on “difficult plots.” She designed at least fourteen homes defined by their diminutive scale and lightness of form, some balanced perfectly on the edge of a hillside. Only several of these houses do remain but they are a testament to Greta’s use of rich woods, and natural light to create warmth. She crafted these homes of classic modern materials like steel and stone. Her first villa in Beverly Hills was a major breakthrough for her as an architect and published in the magazine Arts & Architecture.
GRETA MAGNUSSON-GROSSMAN:  Recently renewed interest in this pioneering modernist sheds light on a female designer who has become an integral part of the design genre called “American Modernism.”

No comments:

Post a Comment