San Francisco Airport Museum
March 2009 - October 2009
The legacy of iconic Mid-Century Modern industrial designer Russel Wright is the subject of a new exhibition Wright at Home: Modern Lifestyle Design at The San Francisco Airport Museum slated to open March 16, 2009.
Russel Wright firmly believed the concept, "good design is for everyone". Together with his wife and confidant, Mary Wright, he created exciting designs for the emerging post-depression economy using materials and techniques that were new at the time, such as plastic and spun aluminum.
Past exhibits focused on the broad spectrum of designs produced by Wright between the 1930s and mid-1960s. For the first time, the exhibition Wright at Home focuses extensively on dinnerware, the products that brought the Wrights the recognition they deserved and their first major monetary success.
Why Focus on Dinnerware?
Although Wright designed a vast array of products during his 30-year career – ranging from furniture and textiles to glassware, flatware and art pottery – it was his dinnerware designs that made him a household name. In the Mid-20th-Century, the name Russel Wright commanded brand awareness similar to that enjoyed today by lifestyle marketers such as Ralph Lauren, Martha Stewart and Karim Rashid.
Following the Depression and World War II, the United States emerged as one of the world’s most powerful and affluent nations. In the postwar suburbs, people often dined in the family room in front of the television. Cocktail parties and buffets supplanted formal dinners. Industrial designers, led by Wright, began to serve this burgeoning consumer market by creating affordable, stylish, mass-produced objects for the home. Wright at Home presents a number of themes that were paramount to Wright’s philosophy, including the new informality and the use of nature as a design element.
Details of the Exhibition
More than 250 items from noted collectors, including many from the collection of Guest Curator McKinley Williams, are included in the San Francisco Airport Museum show. A number of one-of-a-kind pieces – many displayed for the first time – will delight visitors as they stroll past 30 beautifully designed cases. Also included are rare early Russel Wright metal designs and extensive ceramic and plastic dinnerware product lines featuring pieces manufactured in Japan.
"This exhibition is a tribute to an industrial designer who transformed the thinking of a new generation of homemakers during a time of social expansion," according to Guest Curator McKinley Williams. "Wright sought to make living easier while introducing consumers to Modernism as the wave of the future, as well as to the democratic ideals at the core of our American values. He was rarely concerned with ‘Will it sell?’ but asked rather, ‘Is this product aesthetically pleasing?’ and ‘Can it provide labor-saving opportunities for the entire family?’"
Wright’s use of natural materials that were new to the marketplace was an historical development in both technology and design. The public responded favorably to the novelty and innovation represented in a variety of ways throughout the exhibition.
Photo Gallery: Exhibition Opening
A Brief Introduction to Russel Wright
Russel Wright (1904–1976), pioneering tastemaker in home furnishings and accessories, was one of the most successful American industrial designers from the 1930s through the early 1960s. Born in Lebanon, Ohio to a prominent family, he attended Princeton University briefly before moving to New York City to establish a career in theater arts. Wright’s early career as a stage designer in the 1920s, and his marriage to Mary Small Einstein, who encouraged him to design household items, paved the way for Wright’s career in industrial design.
For nearly thirty years, Wright’s extremely popular Modern wares influenced, and often established, middle-class American taste. In addition to aggressive mass-marketing, he used his signature in all advertisements and applied it to most of his products, creating one of the first designer brand names. Wright not only created items for the home, he created a new American lifestyle.
PLEASE NOTE: The exhibition is located in the "Ticketed Only" area of Gallery F2 in Terminal 3. Contact McKinley Williams at (510) 261.4347 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a tour or for additional information. Groups are invited to schedule their tours of the exhibition at least one week in advance. Photography is not permitted.
©2009 by San Francisco Airport Commission. All rights reserved.