I recently made the trek out to the Hudson River Museum (hrm.org) to see the new exhibition, “Bakelite in Yonkers: Pioneering the Age of Plastics” (on view through June 6th). I have written about Bakelite on this blog before (see December 22, 2009: On the Hunt for Bakelite…at Bonhams in New York) but mostly on jewelry, as that was all that I had been interested in, therefore “Bakelite in Yonkers” was a real eye-opener for me as the world of Bakelite is so vast.
Since this exhibition is not limited to a time period, it is a wonderful treat for design historians. One can identify all different styles in the objects on display. The severe edges of an Art Deco weather station “Barometer and Thermometer” can be compared to the streamlined curves of the Tesla Talisman radio. And we are reminded with some of the more recent designs, like those of Phillipe Stark’s, that Bakelite is still in use today.
Some of the designs are humorous and neat to look at. Sometimes trying to figure out their purpose is also a treat (a beer warmer? really?). My favorite were the smoking accessories: a cigar cutter, “Gibus”, is in the shape of a clown (the cigar goes into the clown’s mouth and is cut by a simple tap on the hat) but this does not compare to the Art Deco elephant ashtray which also has a slot for a matchbox and cigarettes from the 1930s or a “Razzia” cigarette lighter, in the shape of a gun, from the 1950’s. Some designers are unknown while others boast famous names. Another favorite was a Gio Ponti designed Desk Intercom, “dufono” ca. 1940s, for the Ducati Corporation.
For further information on the museum, visit http://www.hrm.org/index.html