Indiana Daily Student

Film on the Eames Duo documented new era of design

<p>Professor T. Kelly Wilson speaks to an audience on his life and architectural influences Nov. 11 at the Fine Arts building. Wilson graduated with a master's in architecture from Harvard University.</p>

Professor T. Kelly Wilson speaks to an audience on his life and architectural influences Nov. 11 at the Fine Arts building. Wilson graduated with a master's in architecture from Harvard University.

Charles and Ray Eames, now deceased, were considered to be an inseparable unit in the 1960s. In one way, they designed and produced art together, from furniture to houses, and even short films. In another way, they were a married couple who worked together constantly throughout their relationship.

The documentary “Eames: The Architect and the Painter” showed a glimpse of both the Eames’ design work and their personal lives. The 2011 film was shown at Nov. 11 at the IU Cinema. 

Preceding the film was a lecture called “Eames in Focus” at noon the same day in the Fine Arts Building. The talk featured guest speaker T. Kelly Wilson, the director of IU Center for Art & Design Columbus and associate professor in the School of Art, Architecture and Design. At the talk was an original Eames chair from IU’s Campus Art Collection. Wilson discussed the style of Eames’ design work and their history in architecture and furniture design.

“Another great principle of their design intentions is to always be upfront and clear about whose job is doing what in the design project,” Wilson said.

A short film created by the the couple called “Toccata for Toy Trains” was featured before the documentary. The 1957 film was inspired by a gift of a toy train given to Charles Eames from film director Billy Wilder. Both were interested in toy trains and bonded over that.

“This film may have been made for fellow enthusiasts, or as an entertainment for children,” Nan Brewer, a curator at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, said before the short. “Whichever the case, this film, without dialogue and a simple journey narrative, reveals the Eameses playing with camera angles, editing, movement, lighting, color and sound -- in essence, learning the craft of filmmaking.” 

“Eames: The Architect and The Painter” told the story of the inner workings of Charles and Ray Eames. Charles’ work focused on architecture and design, and Ray was a painter and sculptor. The two met, and once they married, collaborated on almost all of their work. The couple received help from students who worked under them in their Saint Vincent, California studio.

“I study interior design, but I didn’t really know much about Eames, what they made and who they were— both as people and how their relationships were,” senior Hiroko Hanamura said. “It was a great way to learn how they changed design and art with everything they did.” 

The documentary featured multitudes of the duo’s work, including their furniture, short films and design work with companies such as IBM and Polaroid. The film even showed footage of the Eameses themselves, and the designers who worked under them. According to IU Cinema’s website, they are arguably considered the most well-known designers of the 20th century.

“They were very influential, these two, and they continue to be,” Wilson said. “Probably foremostly as a partnership of two people who had to work with each other both in life and in design, and the second, for having put humanism into modernism.”

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