Saturday, July 19, 2014

Squirting Grapefruits and Fingerprints: Deskey's Textiles

"Squirting Grapefruit"

Donald Deskey might be a name you are familiar with, but if you can’t quite place his work, just think Radio City Music Hall.

The interior that we now think of as the quintessential expression of Art Deco design, was actually slated to be yet another over-the-top “Rococo,” movie palace. That, of course, was before a certain designer entered the design competition with a completely different vision.

From the Radio City’s website:
Deskey invested $5,000 in a spectacular presentation of the new Art Deco style that utilized glass, aluminum, chrome and geometric ornamentation, promising a modern theatre, unlike any other in New York. Deskey won the competition and was awarded the mammoth project of designing every public area in the Music Hall, including thirty lobby areas, smoking rooms, retiring rooms, foyers and lounges ...  
Deskey himself designed furniture and carpets, and he coordinated the design of railings, balustrades, signage and decorative details to complement the theatre's interior spaces. He used a brilliant combination of precious materials (including marble and gold foil), and industrial materials (including Bakelite, permatex, aluminum and cork)
The archive of Deskey’s work at the Smithsonian contains iterations of Radio City’s instrument-themed carpet, along with many other Deco delights. These playful pastel-on-black 1930s textile designs definitely took me by surprise!

"W.P.A., or Spare Time"


"Party Ashtray"

Then there was one more pastel on black, from 1961, and about as far from a textile design as you can get. It was the sketch for New York City’s familiar streetlight!

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