Plastics from Paradise:
California Modernizes the American Lifestyle

Clarence M. Burroughs (1904-1998)
mfg. by Burroughs Mfg. Co, Los Angeles, c. 1948
plastic
Photo: Daniel Chavkin

Jonathan Ive (b. 1967)
mfg. Apple, Inc. (in production 1998-2003)
plastic, metal
Photo: Daniel Chavkin

Presented by the Museum of California Design
in conjunction with Palm Springs Modernism Show & Sale
Palm Springs Convention Center
February 17 to 20, 2017

Curated by Bill Stern

Plastics from Paradise: California Modernizes the American Lifestyle (detail),
Glasspar G2: fiberglass (glass-reinforced plastic) body by William R. “Bill” Tritt, chassis by Harold "Shorty" Post, Santa Ana, CA, c. 1952.
Photo courtesy Museum of California Design.

By exhibiting popular consumer products made between 1935 and 2010  this show is the first to honor how California designers have put the myriad forms of plastic – fiberglass, polymer, Lucite, Styrofoam, Micarta and others – to imaginative and attractive new uses. Their creations have affected the way millions of Americans, and millions more in other countries, have lived and continue to live their daily lives.

From a Streamline Moderne serving cart made of war-surplus aircraft aluminum and Micarta (cloth-reinforced resin) to one of the first fiberglass-bodied cars, the 1952 Glasspar G2, to the architectural lines of Frank Gehry’s 2010 molded polymer Heller Easy Chair, the exhibition features some of the original uses of plastics that California’s designers have contributed to the American lifestyle. Other notable objects in the exhibition are a Charles and Ray Eames fiberglass chair from 1948; a 1961 Hobie surfboard made of fiberglass and polyurethane foam; a 1983 Judith Hendler necklace made from repurposed glass-surfaced acrylic; a centerpiece bowl by Herb Ritts Sr. made from rejected aircraft windshield acrylic; and an RKS Guitar, the first guitar made of a sustainable wood polymer.

“Plastics from Paradise: California Modernizes the American Lifestyle” was a special exhibition in association with the Palm Springs Modernism Show & Sale produced by Dolphin Promotions. The exhibition was installed in the lobby of the Palm Springs Convention Center during the 2017 Palm Springs Modernism Show and the adjacent Art Palm Springs show.

Tray, “Magnolia” by Dorothy Thorpe for Dorothy C. Thorpe Inc., c.1941. Glass and acrylic Photo: Lorca Cohen

Beverage and food service cart, Aero-Art by Frantz Industries Inc., Los Angeles, c.1946 Aluminum and Micarta. Glass tumblers by Dorothy Thorpe. Photo: Daniel Chavkin

Floor lamp by Mitchell Bobrick, mfg. by Control Light, Los Angeles, 1949. Chrome-plated steel, fiberglass, glazed ceramic, birch, enameled aluminum. Photo: courtesy Museum of California Design

Cuff Bracelet, Zahara Schatz
war surplus acrylic, metal, paint, c. 1955
Photo: Daniel Chavkin

 

Sling Chair by Charles Hollis Jones (pictured) 
for Hudson-Rissman, c. 1963
stretched acrylic and chromed brass
Photo: Courtesy Museum of California Design

Limelite by Bill Curry for Design Line, Inc.
El Segundo, CA. c.1970
plastic, metal
Photo: Daniel Chavkin

 

Fruit bowl by Herb Ritts for Astrolite,
Los Angeles, c.1972
rejected aircraft acrylic
Photo: Daniel Chavkin

“Lemon Drops” Necklace, Judith Hendler (pictured),
mfg. by Acri-Gems, Inc., c. 1984
glass-coated acrylic rejected for a stained glass window
Photo: courtesy Museum of California Design

Exhibition (detail): Architectural Fiberglass planter, Dorothy Thorpe acrylic vase, guitar by RKS Guitars
Photo: Courtesy Museum of California Design