Bend It Like Breuer: Modern Plywood of the 20th Century

24 January - 9 March 2019

64 White Street

R & Company presents Bend It Like Breuer: Modern Plywood of the 20th Century, an exhibition surveying the history of plywood furniture as seen through the lens of modernism. Although bent wood and plywood, twin engines of the 19th-century furniture industry, are important materials of modern design, the focus of this show is on the “bent ply” furniture produced after the rise of the 20th-century artistic movements summarized as “modernism” and influenced by Le Corbusier’s seminal and emphatic choice of bent wood Thonet chairs in the 1925 Le Pavillion de l’Esprit Nouveau because “its simplicity is a distillation of forms that harmonize with the body.”

As suggested by the title, the exhibition celebrates the plywood designs of Marcel Breuer, in honor of the Bauhaus centenary, and includes examples of Breuer’s chairs from Berlin in 1929 to Bryn Mawr in 1938. Particular emphasis is placed on the furniture designed by Breuer and others for Isokon, the 1930s English company which collaborated with the Estonian manufacturer Venesta to produce some of the most legendary bent ply designs of the 20th Century.

The exhibition includes museum-quality masterworks in plywood from across the globe, from Estonia, Finland and Denmark to the USA and Brazil, and from 19th-century inspirations to Postmodern statements.

“There is extensive academic and museum exhibition history on modernism and plywood, and this exhibition does not pretend to break new ground,” states James Zemaitis, R & Company’s Director of Museum Relations and curator of the show. “Rather it is an opportunity to present a mostly selling exhibition of important and rare designs in an intimate gallery setting, allowing collectors, curators and students to get close to the biomorphic forms of Aalto, Breuer, Eames and Zanine.”

Bend It Like Breuer: Modern Plywood of the 20th Century will be presented on the lower level of 64 White Street running concurrently with Breaking the Box, a solo exhibition of new works by Sebastian ErraZuriz from 24 January through 9 March, 2019.

Discover more about unsung British designer Harry Mansell, and why we consider him to be an important part of the history of furniture design in our #RStories feature.