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Oakland Museum of California Announces Details of Major Exhibition Celebrating Two of the Most Influential Designers of the 20th Century—Charles and Ray Eames

(OAKLAND, CA) September 10, 2018— The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) will honor the legacy of two of the most important designers of the 20th centuryCharles and Ray Eames—in a major new exhibition opening October 13, 2018 in the Museum’s Great Hall.


The World of Charles and Ray Eames will go beyond the husband and wife duo’s most well-known designs in this intimate and inspiring exhibition, surveying the careers of Charles (1907–1978) and Ray (1912–1988). The Eameses, who founded the Eames Office at the beginning of their life together in California, valued knowledge and discovery, embraced the joy of trial and error, and saw no separation between life and work. OMCA will be the final stop for the traveling exhibition and the only West Coast venue to host the exhibition.


“Ray and Charles Eames have changed the world of design, creating beautiful work that is both stylish and functional in our everyday lives,” said Carin Adams, Curator of Art and OMCA Exhibition Curator. “As a museum whose mission is to ‘inspire all Californians to create a more vibrant future for themselves and their communities,’ there’s no better example than this dynamic duo, who represent the quintessential California story.”


“The Charles and Ray Eames exhibits are on their way home, having been seen by thousands of people at several venues in Europe and more recently at The Henry Ford in Michigan. I couldn’t be more delighted that their final stop will be at the Oakland Museum of California, where this fine reappraisal of their work is sure to be enjoyed by a West Coast public who have always been perfectly in sync with their democratic ethos that fuses design intelligence and boundless creativity,” said Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican Art Gallery.


Encompassing more than 380 works, the exhibition will offer a fresh perspective on the designers and will include multimedia installations, rare prototypes, photography, furniture, toys, products, films, personal letters, drawings, and artwork, showcasing the breadth of their work across many fields in this interactive exhibition that will bring their ideas and playful spirit to life. OMCA will also be the first to present the newly-restored Glimpses of the U.S.A., shown in an immersive environment where visitors can recline in Eames lounge chairs as they view the groundbreaking multi-screen film with headphones for audio.


The World of Charles and Ray Eames contains four thematic sections. The first section tells the origin story of the couple, with a focus on California as a source of inspiration. Experimentation, iteration, and collaboration were essential to the Eameses’ design process. Their designs explored new ideas, driven by their interest in problem-solving to create a better world. California provided the Eameses with an opportunity to innovate and utilize Hollywood connections.


Visitors will have the rare opportunity to see early Eames experiments and landmark commissions, examine a quintessential moment in California design, and learn how the work of Charles and Ray Eames continues to resonate today. Sculptures, sketches, photographs, and objects from the Office will also be on view. 


During the mid-20th century, Charles and Ray Eames changed the perception of design. The second section of the exhibition explores the experimental ideas behind their designs, including models and recreations of objects displayed at public exhibitions and world fairs. See examples of the Eameses’ commissioned installations for corporate and government clients, including early work with IBM before personal computers were a part of mainstream culture.


The third section of the exhibition will explore the Eameses’ multimedia projects and work developed throughout their career, including furniture, branding, and design. The Eameses’ ethos of taking pleasure seriously in everyday lived experiences will be felt through immersive and multimedia installations, showcasing the beauty of bridging their personal and professional lives. Charles and Ray Eames also saw play as a form of self-discovery and had a lifelong passion for collecting toys and cultural artifacts, many of which were included in displays at Herman Miller showrooms. OMCA is a part of the Herman Miller Consortium, a group of thirteen museums who hold parts of the Herman Miller collection, which includes designs by Charles and Ray Eames. 


In the final section of the exhibition, visitors will see how the Eameses were able to make complex ideas easy to understand through sample lessons and multimedia videos, including the Powers of Ten film, one of the Eameses’ best-known films, which investigates how we understand and process information about the changing world around us.


The Eameses were inspired by the ways in which everything in the world is connected, using play as a form of problem solving and a source of inspiration. To emphasize the Eameses’ passion for creativity, two unique workshop spaces will include interactive opportunities for experimentation.


Playing with form, material, light, and shadow, visitors will be guided in an activity using pre-cut organic shapes of paper to create 3D sculptural shapes, inspired by Ray’s paintings, sculpture, ephemera, and Eames office furniture in the room. The paper sculptures will then be integrated into the exhibition, where visitors can use a small flashlight to play with light and shadow on the sculptures.


Toward the final section of the exhibition, a second workshop titled “Everything Connects” will include a lounge area to relax, reflect, and play. Inspired by the Eameses’ love for toys and play as a form of creative exploration, this workshop includes the Eames activity House of Cards, kaleidoscopes for viewing objects and images, and a tabletop lightbox filled with slides from the Eames Office, providing another unique perspective on how we view the world. The Eameses’ film Tops will play alongside a seating area where visitors can sit in Herman Miller’s Magis Spun chairsdesigned by Thomas Heatherwick—replicating the feeling of a top spinning. 


The World of Charles and Ray Eames will be on view in OMCA’s Great Hall October 13, 2018 through February 27, 2019. There is a $4 charge for this special exhibition in addition to regular Museum admission.


The World of Charles and Ray Eames is curated and organized by Barbican Art Gallery, London. The Oakland Museum of California presentation is made possible by Herman Miller and the Oakland Museum Women’s Board, in collaboration with the Barbican Art Gallery and Eames Office, with support from Terra Foundation. 

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) tells the many stories that comprise California, creating the space and context for greater connection, trust, and understanding between people. Through its inclusive exhibitions, public programs, educational initiatives, and cultural events, OMCA brings Californians together and inspires greater understanding about what our state’s art, history, and natural surroundings teach us about ourselves and each other. With more than 1.9 million objects, OMCA brings together its multi-disciplinary collections of art, history, and natural science with the first-person accounts and often untold narratives of California, all within its 110,000 square feet of gallery space and seven-acre campus. OMCA is a leading cultural institution of the Bay Area and a resource for the research and understanding of California’s dynamic cultural and environmental heritage for visitors from the region, the state, and around the world.

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is at 1000 Oak Street, at 10th Street, in Oakland. Museum admission is $15.95 general; $10.95 seniors and students with valid ID, $6.95 youth ages 9 to 17, and free for Members and children 8 and under. There is a $4 charge in addition to general admission pricing for special exhibitions. OMCA offers onsite underground parking and is conveniently located one block from the Lake Merritt BART station, on the corner of 10th Street and Oak Street. The accessibility ramp is located at the 1000 Oak Street main entrance to the Museum.




Around the Block: A Day of Neighborhood Stories

September 29, 2018

Go beyond the walls of the Oakland Museum of California to experience Around the Block: A Day of Neighborhood Stories. Visit five engaging pop-up projects within a three-block radius of OMCA, for one day only on Saturday, September 29, 2018. Explore dynamic and interactive events created by artists and community organizers through shared storytelling, literature, dance, art, performances, and photography.

Listen, learn, and contribute your own story to these discussions about the many important issues facing Oakland today, including cultural legacy, gentrification, homelessness, and processing emotions around loss of life. Pick up a map at OMCA to find your way to each of the five locations and be a part of a special one-day celebration of Oakland’s culture. This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.


Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline

November 10, 2018–March 17, 2019

Drop back in time to see the natural environment of California in a new way. Discover the connections between art and science through fantastically colorful renderings by artist Ray Troll and the research of paleontologist Kirk Johnson, who made an incredible journey to map the ancient world with a fresh perspective. Together, the fossil-loving scientist and his artist friend paint a vivid picture of the land and creatures that once roamed the West Coast thousands of years ago. Learn how fossils teach us about how California’s landscape, plants, and animals have evolved over millions of years. With the addition of sculpture, maps, a giant sloth—or Paramylodon harlani— and other fossils and bones from the collections of OMCA and the California Academy of Sciences, and a fun hands-on activity, this exhibition will thrill fossil fans and curious culture-seekers alike. Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline was organized by the Anchorage Museum.




Homegrown Heroes: Oakland A’s at 50

Through October 21, 2018

Share your love for Oakland’s hometown team with a new pop-up installation in the Gallery of California History celebrating the Oakland A’s 50th anniversary. Honor three iconic homegrown—Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson, and Dave Stewart—and get up close with rare photographs, high school yearbook images, and sports memorabilia worn by the players to learn about their roots in The Town and contributions to the team. Reminisce about the legendary 1989 Battle of the Bay World Series with a poster from the OMCA Collection, and contribute your own baseball memories of playing America’s favorite pastime or attending an A’s game.

A Question of Faith

Through November 4, 2018

Engage in the conversation on art and politics when the Oakland Museum of California takes part in the widely-anticipated For Freedoms Federation’s 50 State Initiative this fall. Founded by Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, the project is one of the largest creative collaborations in the history of the country. Hundreds of cultural, educational, and public sites will inspire political participation through the arts leading up to the midterm elections.


From September 10 to November 4 throughout Oakland, visitors will view A Question of Faith, a temporary public artwork by artist Chris Johnson on billboards and bus shelters—as well as OMCA’s campus—that remixes photographs by acclaimed 20th century documentary photographer Dorothea Lange with a quote by American Transcendentalist Theodore Parker. This artwork reflects upon the role of faith and history in politics, and provides a platform to share views at the Museum’s interactive chalkboard installation.


Take Root: Oakland Grows Food
Through November 2019

Unearth Oakland’s multi-layered world of food in Take Root: Oakland Grows Food, an exhibition exploring aspects of growing food in Oakland. Enjoy this hands-on exhibition with the entire family to understand what factors determine where, how, why, and what is grown throughout the city. Hear personal stories from farmers and growers within the community, see compelling illustrations and maps, and meet the diverse flavors of Oak-land. Learn what motivations Oaklanders have for growing food—including access to healthy and delicious ingredients, environmental and social justice values, or simply the joy of tending a garden. Visitors will be invited to share personal stories, explore interac-tive activities, and gain a deeper understanding of Oakland’s agriculture.