The lecturer in Digital Media and Course Director of Swinburne University of Technology’s Bachelor of Screen Production, Dean Keep, along with researcher and Australian mid-century design collector, Jeromie Maver, have curated the first major exhibition focussing on the industrial design work of Clement Meadmore. The exhibition will be held at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne.
Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design is a culmination of over ten years of research by Keep and Maver, who were assisted by a State Library of Victoria Creative Fellowship. The exhibition focuses on the crossover of art and design in Meadmore’s work, and features over 100 objects, including rare archival documents and photographs.
“Meadmore is considered one of the world’s most important modernist sculptors of the 20th Century, but very little is known about his industrial design practice in Australia,” says Keep.
“We were fascinated by the corded furniture he manufactured in Melbourne during the early ‘50s and soon discovered that no comprehensive research had been conducted on his design practice.”
Corded furniture, Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design, photography by Christian Capurro
Keep and Maver felt a need to fill the knowledge gap and to tell the Meadmore story. This involved ten years of detailed research, including close to 100 interviews with Meadmore’s family, friends and contacts; and an exhaustive search of periodicals, newspapers and manuscripts in public collections.
Meadmore’s furniture and lighting, Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design, photography by Christian Capurro
Furniture and artworks, Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design, photography by Christian Capurro
Interviews with Meadmore’s family and colleagues who shared a connection with the design, jazz and art scenes in Melbourne in the 1950s feature in the exhibition, as do many objects never seen by the public before.
“Although much has been written about Meadmore’s sculptural practice, his design practice in post-war Australia had generally been overlooked by researchers. What we discovered was a multi-disciplinary design practice that stretched well beyond Meadmore’s range of corded chairs, including graphic and interior design, industrial design and sculpture,” explains Keep.
Textile design by Meadmore and archival documents, Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design, photography by Christian Capurro
Graphic design and jazz poster design by Meadmore, Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design, photography by Christian Capurro
“Unlike his design contemporaries of the post-war period, Meadmore’s creative practice took its cues from Mondrian and European Modernism. Our research has uncovered many previously unattributed designs and sculptural works, that document Meadmore’s life in Australia between 1948 - 1963,” Keep explains.
“The exhibition is an important retrospective showing a snapshot of time when mid-century tastemakers sought to turn Melbourne into a thriving and cosmopolitan city,” says Keep.
Timeline of Meadmore’s work, Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design, photography by Christian Capurro
Meadmore designed his first piece of furniture in 1951. It was a dining chair made from steel rod with corded seating and seatback, and formed part of an iconic thirteen-piece series known as Meadmore Originals. These and many other innovative chair designs, lamps and pendant lights were popular with Australian architects and interior designers in the 1950s to early 1960s.
Meadmore was one of Australia’s most innovative, progressive industrial designers from the mid-century period.
The large collection and exhibition offers a rare insight into Meadmore’s early design practice before he left Australia in 1963 to pursue his successful career as an artist and monumental sculptor.
The exhibition at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne runs until March 3 2019.
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