MODERNISM AND TRANSFORMATION
Among the ideas of the Modernist philosophers (c. 1860–1960) was the conviction that utilitarian objects should be not just practical and functional, but also beautiful. Drawing inspiration from the purity of geometry and the tendency toward stylization and streamlining that predominated in the transportation industries, the industrialists and craftspeople of the time began to produce objects distinguished by the beauty of their design and manufacture. The Modernists reasoned that the order imposed by good design was essential for transforming social ideals and bringing about positive social change. Excellent examples of this philosophy are the window designed by Antonin Nechodoma in the Prairie Style and the modern toasters belonging to the Alfredo Martínez-Álvarez Collection.
Equally lovely is the silkscreen portfolio Tres Estrofas de Amor (Three Stanzas of Love), with illustrations by Lorenzo Homar, musical scores by Pablo Casals, and a poem by Tomás Blanco, dedicated to Martita Montañez, Casals’ wife. This artistic collaboration exemplifies the Modernist emphasis on interdisciplinary projects in which the various branches of the arts nourish one another.
The Portfolio Tres Estrofas de Amor serves as an allegory for the interactions that have given the MADMi its raison d’être—from the professional and personal relationship of the three friends Eduardo Méndez Bagur, Rafael Martínez-Álvarez, and Alfredo Martínez-Álvarez out of which arose the desire to leave a cultural legacy for Puerto Rico, to the contemporary artists who turned the Pink House at Cuevillas 607 into their studio. Likewise the interdisciplinary ideal manifests itself in the symbiotic relationship between the plastic arts, design, and the decorative arts that will be researched and exhibited as part of the MADMi’s educational mission.
The artworks and objects on display in the permanent galleries have been chosen to support the museum’s educational goal of explaining the types of furnishings and artefacts, whether produced locally or imported, that made up the lifestyles of the middle and upper-middle class in Puerto Rico from the early twentieth century to mid-century.
In turn, the objects will be analyzed not solely as examples of design, but viewed also in the context of the history of art in order to study their aesthetic and compositional evolution in parallel with the economic and aesthetic changes of the time and to understand their function as decoration within the setting of the residences in which they were found.
That is, the importance of these displays is that they document the development of the design industry and the decorative arts on the island from the perspective of economic development and aesthetic evolution. Therefore, although these objects are not what is generally considered high art, they are functional+decorative works that demonstrate the changes that occurred in Puerto Rico under the influence of Modernism and its philosophy of “designed progress”.
Studebaker, plátanos y machete,
Fiberglass, steel and paint, 2018
STUDEBAKER, PLÁTANOS Y MACHETE
The centerpiece of the museum’s terrace is the sculpture titled Studebaker, plátanos y machete by internationally recognized artist Miguel Luciano. Commissioned by the museum, the sculpture was inspired by the distinctive truck design owned by the museum’s founder, Eduardo Méndez Bagur, making this piece an eye-catching homage to Don Eduardo’s legacy.
The sculpture was molded from a 1949 Studebaker 2R pickup truck, which was designed by Robert Bourke for the firm of Raymond Loewy and Associates and produced in South Bend, Indiana. Studebaker automobiles were known for their simple, modern, streamlined designs symbolic of speed and progress—ideals that drove (pun intended) much of the industrial production of the mid-twentieth century.
Luciano’s Studebaker, with its glossy, iridescent, reflective finish, alludes to the modern fascination for polished objects and is distinguished by its playfulness and its Pop Art influences. The sculpture resembles a gigantic toy, which makes it immediately attractive to the child in all of us, but also turns the terrace into a fun creative space to hang out in.