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Art Deco El Paso Museum of Art January 23- May 8, 2013


rt Deco was the movement that

is often called an eclectic movement because it was a mixture

defined the 1920s and 1930s,

of different styles. The movement echoed various avant-garde

starting in 1925 and ending in

movements. From constructivism and futurism, it inherited a love of

1939, before World War II. During

the machine. From cubism a passion for geometric forms, and from

its time, the movement was known as modernism. It was not until

German expressionism, distortion. From Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets

1968, that art historian Bevis Hillier coined the term Art Deco in his

Russes, it borrowed the sense of theatricality. Finally from Art nouveau

publication Art Deco of the 20s and 30s. The decorative exhibits

it adopted the sinuous lines, whiplash curves, botanical forms and

showcased in the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs

female figures.Traditional and more primitive forms also influenced Art

et Industriels Modernes of 1925 first influenced the movement and

Deco. It embraced pharaonic imagery from ancient Egypt, recycled

its name. It was a time when the machine age and technology

the Babylonian/Assyrian ziggurat structure and pyramidal terraced

were in full swing. Art deco represents luxury and glamour and

towers from the Middle East, drew upon the sun ray imagery from

showed this with the use of rich colors, rich materials and lavish

Pre-Columbian Mexico, and took interest in Africa’s stylized masks

ornaments. It is also known for its bold and simplified geometric

and materials. The movement also embraced the geometric patterns

shapes and patterns representing the machine age and technology.

of traditional Native American pottery, jewelry and basketry. The Art

The machinery and technology influence was opposite from its

Deco style imposed itself upon many aspects of American culture

predecessor, Art Nouveau, which identified with nature. Art Deco

including architecture, fashion and jewelry and graphic design.

“Art Deco reflected the recent decades of rapid technological advancement and an aesthetic appreciation of mechanical production. Art Deco fostered collaboration between the arts and industry.” 1 Endpapers: Edgar Brandt, L’Oasis screen, wrought iron with gilt-copper detailing, 1925; Opposite: Erté, New Bridges for the Seven Seas, 1919.


William Lamb and Associates, Interior detail of Empire State Building, 1931.


Art Deco architecture was considered to be decorative—its only

Buildings like hotels, cinemas and railway stations were embellished

purpose was to make things more beautiful. Art Deco is known

with Deco patterns like zigzags, ziggurats, geometric shapes,

for its luxurious details and ornamentation, making it appropriate

symmetrical and repetitive patterns. There was a bold use of colors

for the design of indoor spaces, such as lobbies, where the

(green, yellow, turquoise and ruby) gold and copper accents and

display of metal work, colored marbles, and wood would be fully

sleek materials, such as marble, glass, and stainless steel. New York

appreciated. Although not completely appropriate, this style was

City and Chicago are the mecca of art deco architecture. These

also applied to the outside of buildings and skyscrapers. The only

cities have succesfully maintained and restored the art deco

problem was much of the small-scale characteristics and details

architecture legacy. Some of the most famous art Deco buildings

were lost to the distant eye in these big, outdoor structures. Yet,

still in existence today are the Chrysler Building, Radio Hall Music

this architectural style accomplished the need for modernity.

Hall, Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center in New York City.

Architect Edward Durell Stone and interior designer Donald Deskey, Radio City Music Hall, c. 1930; Radio City Music Hall elevator, c.1930; Photographer Unkown, Building ornamentation, c. 1930; William Van Alen, Chrysler Building, 1931


Clockwise, from top left: Erté, Her Secret Admirers, 1982; George Lepape, Les Chose de Paul Poiret, 1911; Georges Barbier, Éventails, 1924; Erté, The Balcony, 1989.


Fashion & Jewelry The 1920s brought women’s right to vote. This new freedom created a shift in how women dressed. Women wanted to distance themselves from the traditional prudish images of the past. The Art Deco movement introduced a period of experimentation in fashion trends. Innovative seaming, draping, rich fabrics, beads and feathers were used to create new sophisticated details. During this period “The Flapper” was born. Some characteristics of this new image were more masculine forms, shorter hemlines, streamlined shapes, tube silhouettes, fringe and beaded dresses, geometric and angular shapes and designs. Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes stage costumes first served as inspiration for the famous designers Romain de Tirtoff, also known as Erté, and Paul Poiret, two designers who helped capture the essence and fashion style of the Art Deco Movement. Another prominent designer that is linked with Art Deco fashion is Coco Chanel. She brought luxury to her designs, but also comfort, which made her popular among the newly liberated women. To accompany these fashions, Art Deco Jewelry was influenced by cubism and African art and it made use of bold colors and geometric shapes such as triangles, rectangles, squares and circles. Jewelry often used metals such as silver, brass and copper to lend a contemporary and modern look. Cartier and Tiffany’s are two jewelry firms that rose to new heights during the Art Deco era.

Top left to bottom right: Raymond Templier, Brooch in platinum, 1929; Cartier, Bracelet in platinum, Diana Vreeland Collection, bracelet in white metal, 1934; Erté, Zizi, silver and diamond necklace, c.1930.


Graphic Design The importance of beauty that the movement brought into architecture and fashion also affected the field of graphic design. Yet, graphic design did not have the same lavish ornamentation or details as the other fields in Art Deco. Instead the new imagery of Art Deco posters consisted of simple, but beautiful and clever ways to transmit the message. The common characteristics were straight lines, angular shapes and an airbrush painting gradient effect. Faces and bodies were not detailed. Instead, they had a futuristic, one-dimensional look. New typography was created in order to fit the Art Deco era. Typefaces looked industrial, futuristic, and elegant. Broadway, Bifur and Peignot are some examples of typefaces designed at this time. A famous artist that first influenced the Art Deco style was A.M. Cassandre. He revolutionized poster design by taking the less obvious route. Many of the Art Deco designers like Erté and George Lepape were commissioned to do covers for magazines. The top rival magazines from the era were Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, which displayed many Art Deco illustrations, spreading the movement’s popularity.

Top left to bottom right: A.M Cassandre, Normandie, 1935; Joseph Binder, Fortune Magazine, 1937; George Lepape, Vogue, 1927; Joseph Binder, Poster for the New York World’s Fair, 1939. Opposite: Erté, Cover of Harper’s Bazaar, 1933.



Above and Opposite: Photographer Unkown, Ralph Lauren Fall Runway, 2011. Right: Unknown,The Great Gatsby, 2012. Below: Halle Berry wearing an Art Deco-inspired dress by Marchesa on the red carpet of the 2013 Academy Awards.�


Deco TODAY Art Deco faded away with the arrival of World War II, but it first experienced a resurgence after Bevis Hillier published his book on the subject in 1968. Just like the 1920s, the 1960s was a period of optimism and hope. Two decades later, the 1980s was also reminiscent of the previous eras, when luxury and technology were once again at their peak. In the 2000s Art Deco is still remembered. In 2011, the fashion designer Ralph Lauren created a fall fashion line inspired by Art Deco. The music band, Florence and the Machine, released their album Ceremonials in 2011, the album’s booklet and the promotional posters were inspired by Art Deco. Celebrities often make an homage to art deco fashion on the red carpet. Movies like Woody Allen’s 2011 Midnight in Paris brought back interest the roaring twenties. And Baz Luhrmann’s remake of the movie The Great Gatsby is also recapturing the spirit of the Art Deco era in 2013. Today, the elegant forms of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings in New York still stand and will serve as a reminder of the movement that perfectly combined the arts with the machine age for the purpose of beauty.


Art Deco in El Paso  

El Paso Museum of Art Exhibition Catalog

Art Deco in El Paso  

El Paso Museum of Art Exhibition Catalog