The first object I chose to review from the Museum of Modern Art, is actually from the online collection. Prior to the museum visit I did some more research online and this particular piece caught my eye - it's the earthenware 'Town and Country Pepper Casters', made in 1945 by industrial designer Eva Zeisel. Zeisel was a Hungarian-born immigrant, who came to the US after the war to practice. It is an object from the Postwar American Design period (i.e. post WWII, 1940s and 50s in the United States). This object clearly demonstrates ‘biomorphic' design. Derived from the Greek words bios (life) and morphe (form), it is characterized by smooth, undulating curved surfaces present in nature and living organisms. Another key theme that this object exemplifies is intimacy with regards to human relationships. The two objects are almost anthropomorphic in form and in the way they interact. They are asymmetrical and fit comfortably into one another. They emulate gestures of living things. One is significantly smaller than the other, suggesting perhaps a parent-child relationship. One could argue that it is also ergonomic in design, thinking about the way it would fit into the palm of the user’s hand. It is evident that the objects are intended to be touched, held and used. Zeisel is aware of the intimate relationship people have for the objects that contain our food - objects that nourish and nurture. There is undoubtedly an emotional connection present. Eva Zeisel took the cold formalism of Bauhaus (1919 to 1933) and gave it warmth and feeling. These notions helped provide a sense of tranquillity and familiarity during the tensions of the post-war period.
Having then paid a visit to the museum itself, I began to notice that actually, a substantial number of objects at the MoMA exhibited this same biomorphic, ergonomic theme, by no coincidence, from the same post-war time period. Pierre Paulin’s series of 'Tongue Chairs’ (1967) on display at the museum, offers another, more contemporary case of designed objects that exemplifies this biomorphic aesthetic. Paulin was a French designer who was noted for his contemporary furniture designs. These chairs were crafted from synthetic material, such as chrome, foam and stretch fabric. The units are sculptural in their appearance, lightweight and comfortable. Its flowing form is complemented by equally expressive colors. The designer harnesses his talent for combining the dynamism of form and aesthetic with the essential quality of comfort. "A chair should be more than simply functional. It should be friendly, fun and colorful.” In another 2008 interview he said: "I considered the manufacture of chairs to be rather primitive and I was trying to think up new processes, I had tried to appeal to the lifestyle of young people. They were into low-level living.” Other examples from the 60s include Roberto Matta’s Malitte Lounge Furniture (1966), Susi Berger and Ueli Berger’s Soft Chair (1967), and Cesare Leonardi, Franca Stagi’s Dondolo Rocking Chair (1967).
These objects demonstrate that the generic use of biomorphic forms were one of the most recognizable aspects of early post-war art and design. It is during this time that we see organic forms translated back into visual culture. From the late 1930s, organic shapes increasingly came to dominate the vocabulary of artists and designers, and by the early 1950s and 60s, these examples serve as evidence that ‘free form’ had emerged as a common visual language applied to all fields of practice.