LECTURE : The Serious Play of Alexander Girard
Join Milwaukee Art Museum Curator Monica Obniski for a look at Alexander Girard. During the midcentury several architects and designers embraced playfulness and whimsy within their projects, and the most successful ones intertwined work and play. On view at the Milwaukee Art Museum during the fall of 2018, the exhibition Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America explores the work of over 40 architects and designers who worked on projects related to the American home, child’s play, and corporate approaches. Alexander Girard was one of these architect-designers, who worked across multiple disciplines, but he and his wife were also voracious folk art collectors. This lecture will explore some of the artistic projects of Alexander Girard, highlighting his playful designs, alongside his use of folk art within these projects. Monica Obniski serves as the Demmer Curator of 20th- and 21st-Century Design at the Milwaukee Art Museum. She joined the museum in 2015 from the Art Institute of Chicago, where she was the inaugural Ann S. and Samuel M. Mencoff Assistant Curator of American Decorative Arts. During her tenure, she co-organized and co-authored Apostles of Beauty: Arts and Crafts from Britain to Chicago, co-authored For Kith and Kin: The Folk Art Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, and oversaw several installations. Before her work at the Art Institute, she was a research assistant in the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Obniski received an MA in design history from the Bard Graduate Center and a PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) with the dissertation Accumulating Things: Folk Art and Modern Design in the Postwar American Projects of Alexander H. Girard (1907– 1993). She taught art history at UIC and Columbia College; has received fellowships from the Wolfsonian–Florida International University and the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design; and has published scholarly articles and contributed to publications, most recently to Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe (2016). In Milwaukee, Obniski organized the exhibition How Posters Work (2017) and oversaw the reinstallation of the modern and contemporary design galleries (2015). She is currently working on several special exhibitions, including Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America (2018), co-organized with the Denver Art Museum, and Scandinavian Design and America (2020), co-organized with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Image: Alcoa Forecast advertisement featuring Alexander Girard’s shelving unit, (photograph by Charles Eames) 1956. © Eames Office LLC (eamesoffice.com). Photograph courtesy of Denver Art Museum.