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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 03/14/2007

Modernism: Good for the Brain, Hard on the Feet

By Julia Beizer

Architecture, film, design, craft, painting, photography: In the early part of the 20th century, the modernist movement touched all of these art forms. Contemporary art and craft have been feeling the effects ever since.

"Modernism: Designing a New World, 1914-1939," an exhibition opening at the Corcoran on Saturday, shows how a collection of artistic movements dedicated to the principle of -- to borrow a phrase from Target -- design-for-all took hold in Europe and made waves across the Atlantic.

Some of the objects are great to look at: a ball-bearing necklace, a Kandinsky oil-and-sand painting called "Relations," a Richard Neutra model for a house, wall-hangings in the Bauhaus section, a walk-in kitchen, examples of modernist lamps. The architectural drawings weren't really my thing -- and there are a lot of them -- but they show off part of the movement's dedication to making everything, especially buildings, aesthetically pleasing. Architect Bruno Taut's words say it best, and they are scrawled across the exhibition space: "Art shall no longer be the enjoyment of the few but the life and happiness of the masses."

More than 400 objects, films, drawings and paintings tell this story. That's about how many objects were in last year's Dada exhibit at the National Gallery, but because the exhibition takes up nearly all the gallery space in the museum, it feels about twice as long.

Having just been through the exhibit today, I'd advise anyone who's interested in checking it out to: a) see the exhibition a couple of times in order to take it all in; b) breeze through it and stop only at the pieces that interest you; or c) wear comfortable shoes and bring a water bottle and a granola bar (to eat outside the galleries, of course). You're gonna be there for a while -- learning about the foundation of all contemporary design is no simple task.

Timed tickets are required for this exhibition and slots are still available for trips this weekend. For a preview of this exhibition, check out our photo gallery.


By Julia Beizer  | March 14, 2007; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Museums  
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