A DESIGNER AHEAD OF HER TIME: THE WORK OF EILEEN GRAY
Thursday, August 10, 2000
Luminaire shares the work of historical designers who continue to inspire the design world in hopes of spreading a love for passionate work and those who, throughout time, are responsible for creating it. In this spirit, Luminaire presented a gripping exhibition in honor of Eileen Gray, a contemporary of Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and Mies Van Der Rohe who has emerged more recently from the shadows of her male contemporaries and recognized as a designer and architect independent in her own right.

On August 10, Richard Geary, president of Geary Design in Naples, discussed the impact Gray has made in the world of modern furniture design and architecture, elucidating the modernist and art deco influences in her work. Gray exuded a distinct, almost defiant style in her objects and furniture. Her voluptuous leather and tubular steel Bibendum Chair and clinically chic E-1027 glass and tubular steel table, both part of Luminaire's collection, are now as familiar as icons of the International Style as Le Corbusier and Perriand's classic Grand Confort club chairs.

As Geary said, "Most phenomenal was her ability to translate furniture into sculptural form and not be a prisoner of convention. She was so far ahead of her time."

Geary also co-curated an exhibition that featured a collection of nine wooden models of Gray's architectural projects; both built and unbuilt, and made by students at Harvard and Florida. The exhibition traveled to The University of Florida, Harvard University in Boston and Frankfurt, Germany. The models are currently on display in the Irish Architectural Archive.

Working in the International Style, she adopted many of the ideals of her celebrated contemporaries. However, some have suggested that her architecture not only conforms to the aesthetics and principles of the modernism, but also works to critique the movement in hopes of pushing boundaries and creating designs that will also adapt to a fluid, ever shifting cultural environment. Nine of her forty-five architectural projects were built, and her most famous building, E.1027, was a favorite of Le Corbusier.

"She never tooted her own horn, never did any self-promotion, not like [Le Corbusier], not like Frank Lloyd Wright, even Mies, or any of those people," marveled Geary. "She sat back and waited for the world to find her, and they did. The neat thing is that she still lives on in every piece."

As a female working independently in the early 20th century, she was often isolated from her male colleagues and her work was, for some time, underappreciated. By exhibiting her work and giving visitors a chance to experience her genius first hand, Luminaire provided invaluable insight into the evolution of her work, its timelessness, and the social context in which she created it.