Midcentury Modern Furniture from Brazil Gets a New Look

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 8, 2016 | Go to article overview

Midcentury Modern Furniture from Brazil Gets a New Look


Byline: Katherine Roth Associated Press

Brazil's modernist architecture may be better known, but the country's distinctive midcentury modern furniture is getting new international attention.

Sensuous curves, tropical woods, woven leathers and traditional techniques like caning and netting were all part of a style called Brazil Modern that developed from the 1940s to the 1970s.

"When it all comes together, it's like the music of Gilberto Gil," said Juliet Kinchin, curator of modern design in the department of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which recently acquired four chairs by Brazilian furniture designer Lina Bo Bardi.

Piece by piece, midcentury modern works from Latin America are gaining visibility in museums and galleries across the United States.

"Brazil is one of the last -- if not the last -- great discoveries of 20th century design," says collector Zesty Meyers, who wrote the introduction to "Brazil Modern" (Monacelli Press), a mammoth new survey by design curator and writer Aric Chen.

Brazilian author and design professor Maria Cecilia Loschiavo dos Santa interviewed many of the stars of Brazilian furniture design in person, wrote a book on furniture of the era, and co-curated "Moderno: Design for Living in Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela, 1940-1978," an exhibit at the Americas Society in New York last year.

"Interest (in the style) has been building for 10 years or so in the U.S., but now people are really talking about it," she said, interviewed by phone at her home in Brazil.

A recent turning point, she said, was the convergence of last year's "Moderno" show with an exhibit on Latin American urban design at the Museum of Modern Art.

Packed with more than 400 photos and sketches, the book "Brazil Modern" brings the era to life with a detailed history of Brazil during the post-war decades of breakneck economic growth. It introduces titans of Brazilian design like Italian immigrant Bo Bardi (one of the few women designers of the era), Oscar Niemeyer, Joaquim Tenreiro and Sergio Rodriguez.

The same immigrant wave that brought post-Bauhaus designers and architects to the United States, ushering in elements like floor-to-ceiling windows, family rooms and open-flow houses, likewise brought post-Bauhaus architects and designers to Brazil.

"People think of Brazil as this faraway land," Meyers said. "But the waves of immigration were almost the same as the ones that came here."

In Brazil, this generation of designers became part of a national melting pot just as the country was emerging from colonialism and developing a national spirit known as "brasilidade," or Brazilianness, Meyers said. …

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