Friday, November 9, 2018

African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce and the Politics of Race



The current show at the Chicago Cultural CenterAfrican American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce and the Politics of Race, is the kind of show I know I will revisit several times while it's here because there is so much to see. I had an opportunity to attend The Designs of African American Life Symposium held in conjunction with the show and learned so much about the history of Black designers in Chicago that I had never known before. As a Black designer myself, having endured so many obstacles in my attempts to get my interior design career off the ground, I can only imagine how much more difficult it must have been for those who came before me at a time when this segregated city was even worse than it is now. Yet despite everything, they persevered and made great work. This show celebrates that.

I want to begin with a page from my maternal grandmother's yearbook. One of the first artifacts I saw was from the Wendell Phillips High School yearbook from 1925, which was during the time she attended the school.

Clarence Lawson
Clarence Lawson


I was already thinking of her because she was a prominent seamstress and the show encompasses fashion as well as other design disciplines,  but there was something really powerful about seeing something that would have once belonged to her.

And this poster advertises the kind of art shows my mother used to participate in.

Unknown Designer


I feel a deep connection to the work in this show.

I first learned about Patty-Jo dolls from the Black Doll Collecting blog. I was excited to see one in person. She is based on a character originated by Jackie Ormes, the first African-American woman to have a syndicated comic strip.

Patty-Jo by Jackie Ormes

Patty-Jo by Jackie Ormes
Patty-Jo by Jackie Ormes
Jackie Ormes

Patty-Jo by Jackie Ormes
Patty-Jo by Jackie Ormes
Torchy Brown by Jackie Ormes
Jackie Ormes


Several years ago when he was receiving an award, I had an opportunity to meet industrial designer Charles Harrison, who invented the View-Master. He worked for Sears and designed numerous everyday objects, like this sewing machine and this chair.

Charles Harrison

Charles Harrison


Here are more designs that caught my eye. As always, I have tried to include the designers' names in my photo captions, but may have missed someone.




Tom Miller



Charles Dawson
Charles Dawson

Charles Dawson
Charles Dawson

Gordon Parks
Advertising photography by Gordon Parks

Vince Cullers
An ad by Vince Cullers for his agency
  
Robert Savon Pious
Robert Savon Pious

A diorama by Charles Dawson of Crispus Attucks getting killed in the Boston Massacre
A diorama by Charles Dawson of Crispus Attucks getting killed in the Boston Massacre

Charles Dawson
Charles Dawson

Unknown Designer




Unknown Designer

Charles Dawson

Charles Dawson


Charles White

Herb Nipson and Norman L. Hunter

Herbert Temple

Herbert Temple



LeRoy Winbush

LeRoy Winbush

LeRoy Winbush

LeRoy Winbush


Jay Jackson

Jay Jackson






The show continues through March 3rd, 2019. The building hours are Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. –7 pm and Saturday – Sunday, 10 a.m. –5 p.m. and admission is free.

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