Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Milwaukee Art Museum, Brooks Stevens, "Industrial Strength Design,"

On Sunday morning the 20th, we went to the Milwaukee Art Museum to see the actual show on Brooks Stevens, Milwaukee's famous industrial designer. We had already taken in the related advertising show at Insitute of Art and Design, but this was the main event. Stevens' work encompassed everything from railroad cars and buildings to toasters and desk sets, and from the practical to the wildly impractical. Examples were on display. Outside the museum itself, a section of temporary railroad track held a Skyview lounge car, which once had been the tail-end car of the famous Hiawatha passenger trains on the Milwaukee Road. There was also an Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, which Stevens modernized, and an Excalibur touring car, Stevens' retro design based on the Mercedes SSK.

Inside, we again had emphasised the extent to which Stevens had shaped the world we grew up in: steam irons, dryers, vacuum cleaners all assumed iconic shapes under his direction. If you imagine a classic Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a John Deere tractor, or an outboard boat motor, or a mahogany speedboat, you are probably visualizing a Stevens design. Of course, I was attracted to his automobile designs, which included a customized 1938 Cord roadster (drool!), a limited-edition Cadillac-based car called "Die Valkurie," (also beautiful in a 50's way), various Jeep and Studebaker projects, and six-wheeled electric car for Johnson Controls. Ironically, Stevens is quoted at the end of the show as having said that he did not design things to be in art museums! it just goes to show that good design can be timeless, despite even the maker's intentions.

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