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DATE 2/15/2024

Next-level Ellsworth Kelly


Donald Deskey, Table lamp, designed 1927–28. From

'America Goes Modern' collects early 20th-century masterpieces of industrial design

We can't get enough of this 1927–28 table lamp designed by Donald Deskey, reproduced from America Goes Modern: The Rise of the Industrial Designer, MFA Publications' striking new survey of exemplary furniture, metalware and plastics of the 1920s and '30s. "Slightly over a foot tall, Deskey’s lamp combines a flat rectangular back with three stacked triangular volumes," Nonie Gadsden writes, "each concealing an incandescent bulb. Its distinctive shape evokes connections to numerous elements of modern life. The lamp’s overall vertical orientation, looming overhangs and stepped base suggest the skyscrapers then defining the new American city. Its serrated profile references the angularity of Cubism, as well as the teeth of industrial gears. Its upright, tripartite shape is similar to that of recently patented traffic lights that direct the constant stop-and-go of urban space. And its jagged outline calls to mind Mother Nature’s powerful lightning bolt, the symbol of modern electricity. Yet, the most modern aspect of Deskey’s lamp is its electrification. The switch on the back permitted it to be turned on and off at will. The flame-free bulbs allowed light to be directed and manipulated in ways that were impossible a generation before. Its cord connected the lamp’s user to the rapidly expanding national power grid and, symbolically, to a new and modern way of life. In both form and function, Deskey’s lamp utilized modernity to harness the new energy—and light—of modern American life."

America Goes Modern

America Goes Modern

MFA Publications, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Hbk, 7 x 10.5 in. / 192 pgs / 110 color.

$45.00  free shipping

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