Saturday, September 8, 2012

How I Fell in Love With Mid-Century Art and Design, Part II

So were the photos in my last post a little too mysterious?!   
I won't keep you in suspense any longer!  The photos below are from are from the

 Mathematica: a World of Numbers and Beyond... 

exhibit designed by the fabulous and amazing 

 Charles and Ray Eames

My not-so-great photo of a copy of the exhibit at the Museum of Science, Boston

Close-up, the Multiplication Machine. It is made up of 512 light bulbs
that help visually demonstrate multiplication topics.
Via Moey

Part of the Projective Geometry portion of the exhibit. 
Via the Exhibit Designer

Close-up Mobius Band. Viewers pressed a button to make the
motorized train (arrow) move around the band.
I loved to play with this.

Celestial Mechanics:  steel balls traveling around a vortex
was meant to demonstrate how planets move.
Via Exhibit Files.

Mathematica was commissioned by IBM and installed at the California Museum of Science and Industry (now the California Science Center) in 1961.  I used to visit this exhibit at least once or twice a year with my family and although I hate math it never failed to entertain (and educate) me.

Mathematica circa 1961. Note the History Wall in the background.
This was the first major exhibit of fourteen designed by the Eames and it is the only one that still exists! It is the first interactive exhibit devoted to math and topics include probability, topology, Boolean algebra, geometry, calculus, and logic.  Not exactly my usual area of interest!

I have fond memories of this exhibit.  Mathematica was my first exposure to Charles and Ray Eames' joie de vivre and although it may seem far-fetched, the Eames' are truly at the root of my love for mid-century art and design.  Yes, I've been their devotee since childhood. 

A short rant:  the exhibit remained at the California Science Center until 1998 when the museum made a idiotic horrific major mistake and it was removed.  As you may know, the Eames' were based out of Los Angeles:  their studio was in Venice and Eames House is in Pacific Palisades.  To this day I am still appalled that a priceless and influential part of this region's history was sold to another museum.

The original exhibit was acquired by the New York Hall of Science and has been on display since 2004.  A duplicate copy is currently on display at the Museum of Science in Boston, and I went to see it some years ago.   It was wonderful to see the exhibit again but you probably understand that the experience wasn't quite the same.

If you live in Boston or New York do yourself a favor and go visit this exhibit. There is another copy in Atlanta but its display status is currently unknown.  In the Los Angeles area you can see two of the Atlanta exhibit's interactive stars, Celestial Mechanics and the Probability Machine, on display at Eames Office in Santa Monica.

via Apple

You can also experience a little of this exhibit without leaving your house.  If you have an iPad you can install the Minds of Modern Mathematics app.  It is based on the exhibit History Wall and documents the major players in the evolution of mathematics over the last 1,000 years.  You can see it in action here if you don't have an iPad

Anyhoo, I declare it Eames Month around here for no other reason than I get to talk about my favorite duo and show off my rather small but well-loved Eames collection.   I hope you enjoyed this little peek at Mathematica.  There will be more Eames-related goodness to come!

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