Unfortunate ironies abound in the title of a Women in Design lecture

EileenGray.jpg
Eileen Gray's "Dragon Chair."
The nonprofit advocacy group, Women in Design, is sponsoring a lecture tonight at Walker Fine Art called "Work is Freedom."

The topic is the work of three significant 20th century modernist designers: Eileen Gray, Charlotte Perriand and Lilly Reich.

Gray, an Irish-born artist and designer who spent most of her life in France, became famous for her work in lacquer, but she also was adept with modern materials like tubular chrome. Her "Dragon Chair" holds the record for the highest price ever paid for a piece of 20th century furniture when it sold last year for $28 million.

Perriand worked in the 1920s on interior design and furniture with the famous Le Corbusier and his partner Pierre Jeanneret. By the '30s, she was designing buildings with Jeanneret and Jean Prouvé.

Reich, who lived in Germany, collaborated with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe from 1925 to 1938; during this time, he had his most significant creative period.

And all three had trouble during World War II.

Gray -- an English subject -- was deemed an enemy alien in France and was forced to move from her home in Saint-Tropez for the interior of France. Perriand, who had gone to Japan in 1940 as a trade consultant, was forced out after the war started; unable to return to France, she lived in exile in Vietnam. Reich, who had remained in Germany after the start of the war, wound up in a forced-labor camp between 1943 and the cessation of hostilities in 1945.

What's ironic is how similar the lecture's title is to "work makes free" -- Arbeit Macht Frei -- the motto over the gate at Auschwitz concentration camp that greeted the doomed as they entered. It strikes me as strange that a lecture about women who are revered for their good taste would have such a tasteless title.

Also ironic, if slightly less so, is that the lecture for Women in Design is being presented by a man -- a man whose name is Mann, Phillip Mann to be precise. Mann operates Phillip Mann Studios where he makes furniture and sculpture, and he's the 3D studio manager in the art department at Metropolitan State College of Denver.

The lecture starts at 6:30 p.m. at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue, #A, 303-355-8955; admission is $8.


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