‘Serious Play’ Exhibition Will Take You Back to the Post-War Era


All vintage lovers will enjoy this mid-century design exhibition that has been open to the public since May 5.

The Exhibition Reminds You to Take Pleasure Seriously

American post-WWII design reflects the collective feeling of relief after years of suffering, as it offers a breath of fresh air with innovative materials, imaginative designs, and bright colors.

Everyone was recovering from the monstrosities of war, so a generous dose of optimism was much needed. The Denver Art Museum pays respect to the mid-century American design by putting up the “Serious Play: Design in Mid-century America,” comprising over 250 exhibits made by forty different authors.

In the period between 1940 and 1960, designers decided to stop following the set patterns and forms and let their imaginations run wild. For this reason, this period is the favorite of contemporary designers to emulate, and they gladly go back to this time.

If you played with tinsel soldiers or you liked to watch Jack Jumping out of the wound-up box, you will enjoy this walk down memory lane. There are pieces vintage lovers will recognize from a mile’s distance, mixed up with intricate textile designs by Ruth Adler, that visitors can learn a lot about.

This exciting exhibition comes as a result of fruitful cooperation between the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Denver Art Museum. The “Serious Play” exhibition was opened for public in Milwaukee first and moved to Denver at the beginning of May.

The exhibits are divided into three themed entities, representing home, children toys, and commercial designs. The home and the toys sections faithfully depict the spirit of the post-war period, and commercial artifacts seem a bit uninventive compared to these.

Nevertheless, you can find some interesting pieces in this section too, like Paul Rend’s artistic solution for cigars or aluminum designs by Alcoa that advertise this material as part of the future world. Back then, everyone focused on the bright future, trying to forget the horrible past, so these ads were typical for the period.

The artistic couple, Charles and Ray Eames lead this show with a large number of pieces exposed. Their design motto “Take your pleasure seriously” easily turned into a lite motif of the entire show.

Colorado has a reputable representative in this exhibition. This is Herbert Bayer’s famous Kaleidoscreen installed in Aspen in 1957. Asked to find a connection between Colorado and the Midcentury aesthetics, one of the curators responsible for putting up this expo, Darrin Alfred, said that Colorado experienced a fast-paced post-War development just like the rest of the country. So there was plenty of material to build this exhibition on, with the help of the Kirkland Museum.

He said he only regretted that he couldn’t put up the “Do-Nothing Machine,” another work of the Eames couple. All the pieces presented at the DAM seem strangely familiar. This may be because the vintage style is widely promoted in movies, TV shows, and music videos.

Alfred justifies the lack of fashion design with the attempt to narrow down the focus of this exhibition on living spaces and everyday life and to show the fun of it.

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