The World of Charles and Ray Eames at the Barbican Centre

by Sunjoo Alice Kim

Like all the brilliant past exhibitions at the Barbican Centre, The World of Charles and Ray Eames was another successful must see show. The exhibition has been produced in collaboration with the Eames office and many exhibits that have never been displayed in the UK are on loan from the Eames Family and Office as well as public and private collections worldwide.

I am certainly grateful for the chance to see their plethora of work that define the lifetime of the two designers. Although the couple are widely known for their famous furniture and products, the exhibition shows how all throughout their lives, they have surrounded themselves with art and design and absolutely loved it.

Eames furniture, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Centre. Photo credits to Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

Eames furniture, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Centre. Photo credits to Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

The exhibition shows an array of pioneering and influential work of the most influential designers of the 20th century – from architecture, furniture, graphic and product design, to painting, drawing, film, sculpture, photography, multi-media installation and exhibitions, as well as new models for education. As we step into the space, we are introduced to Charles Eames’ techniques of wood moulding for splints, stretchers, gliders for the US Navy during World War II that were later developed into moulded plywood furniture and products.

Study for a Glider Nose 1943, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Centre. Photo credits to Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

Study for a Glider Nose 1943, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Centre. Photo credits to Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

As we walk through, what interested me was the rows of more chairs and a screen playing a beautiful video of how they were made.  It was interesting to see in action the details of the making process of moulded plastic reinforced with fiberglass. Some chairs were of the collaboration with the American Illustrator, Saul Steinberg. He turned a chair into a piece of art when in 1951, while on tour of the Eames office, he picked up a brush and painted a naked woman on the Eames fiberglass armchair.

Eames furniture, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Centre. Photo credits to Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

Eames furniture, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Centre. Photo credits to Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

Eames Furniture, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Centre. Photo credits to Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

Eames furniture, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Centre. Photo credits to Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

The replica of the Musical Tower made for the Eames Office for their own amusement makes a playful tune as we move onto a space with multiple screens called ‘Think’ that was produced for the IBM Pavilion for New York World’s Fair.

Replica of the Musical Tower, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Centre. Photo credits to Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

Replica of the Musical Tower, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Centre. Photo credits to Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

There were several of these screens on display at the exhibition which were very enjoyable to just stare and admire the visual approach the Eames had towards many things they came across. Especially the ‘Tanks’ video of the beautiful jellyfish outstanding in its colours and shape that would continuously show the creature slowly and gracefully squeezing its body in and out to swim through the water. It was so beautiful to look at that I ended up taking a seat to watch it.

Tanks Slideshow, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Centre. Photo credits to Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

Tanks Slideshow, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Centre. Photo credits to Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

Upstairs shows the different sections of models, prototypes and the history of the many pieces of furniture that they have designed. There are sections that also display their inspiration of other cultures and simple objects that they found in everyday use in places such as Mexico and India.

The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Centre. Photo credits to Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Centre. Photo credits to Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

Masks and headpieces, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Centre. Photo credits to Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

Masks and headpieces, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Centre. Photo credits to Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

From 21st October 2015 – 14th February 2016

Further details on the Barbican website

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