With the first decade of the twenty-first century behind us, it is time to reassess the concept of modern, a term that dates to the Middle Ages, when it signified current or recent events. Not until the eighteenth century did it become a stylistic term; more recently it has generally referred to the aesthetic that evolved from the Bauhaus and flourished in the mid-twentieth century. Though proclaiming freedom from the limitations of style, it became as formulaic as most of its predecessors, as Modern architecture and furnishings conformed to prescribed specifications: geometric forms, industrially fabricated, unadorned, and studiously ahistorical. Those guidelines are longer relevant. As Midcentury Modernism has receded into history, Modernism has been redefined, reenergized, and in the process transformed. Today it embraces a cornucopia of design in an almost limitless range of materials: design studios are laboratories for experimentation; design concepts can be as important as finished objects; and furniture has crossed barriers to become a new art form. Tools and techlogies never before possible have provided new approaches to decoration, and may incorporate influences from the past. The design profession has broadened its horizons; interiors and furniture are being created by architects, interior designers, furniture makers, industrial designers, artisans, artists, and even fashion designers. Design After Modernism offers an overview of developments in design over the past four decades-some evolutionary, some expected, and some extraordinary. It identifies the diverse influences that have generated new directions in design and illustrates many of the most characteristic, most teworthy, and most invative objects in this rich and variegated mix. All are representative of their time, and many of the earlier designs have already gained iconic status. Of the more recent ones, whether or t they will be admired in decades to come is something that only time will tell.
Judith Gura is a professor at the New York School of Interior Design, where she directs the design history program and is coordinator of public programs. A graduate of Cornell University, she has a master's degree in the history of the decorative arts from the Bard Graduate Center. She has worked on exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, the Whitney Museum, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Her published works include New York Interior Design, 1935-1985, Sourcebook of Scandinavian Furniture, Guide to Period Styles for Interiors, Harvey Probber: Modernist Furniture, Artworks and Design, and Edward Wormley: The Other Face of Modernism. She is a contributing editor for Art+Auction, and lectures frequently on interior design and furniture styles.