Forma: Bridging Cultures in Modern Design
January 12–April 19, 2024
64 White Street
Carlo Hauner (1927-1997) and Martin Eisler (1913-1977) were the primary designers for the iconic Brazilian furniture company Forma. Their narrative spans four countries—Italy, Austria, Brazil, and Argentina—and testifies to the dynamic cultural dialogs that made modern design flourish around the world in the mid-twentieth century.
Born in Brescia, Italy, Hauner studied art and design in Milan and immigrated to Brazil after World War II. He began his career as a painter but, in 1950, decided to start a furniture production company, purchasing a manufactory owned by Lina and P. M. Bardi and naming it Moveis Artesanal. Martin Eisler was born in Vienna, Austria, and studied architecture and design at the School of the Applied Arts. Due to the rise of Nazism in Europe, in 1938, Eisler immigrated to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he began working as an architect and exhibiting his furniture designs.
Eisler became acquainted with Hauner after going to São Paulo to design an apartment and had the furniture he created produced at Artesanal. Hauner appreciated his work, and Eisler eventually reestablished himself in the Brazilian city and became a partner in the business in 1953, with the company being renamed Forma shortly after. By 1955, Hauner decided to return to Italy, and Eisler carried on, eventually changing the company’s focus to producing foreign designs.
Even though the business operated with the Eisler and Hauner together at the helm for just two short years, in that prolific period the pair created timeless design classics that combined the clean architectural lines they had seen in Europe with Brazil’s sensual materials and sophisticated craftsmanship traditions. The structural vocabulary they developed helped set the tone for the modern furniture produced in the country in the years that followed. Through a creative practice cognizant of its place of origin, Forma testifies how it was possible to infuse a local flavor into the sometimes-sterile international style.
Wall color for this exhibition was generously provided by Alkemis Paint, the world’s first architectural wellness paint.