This black lacquered-wood screen, made of seven horizontal rows of panels joined by thin vertical metal rods, is not only a movable wall but also a sculpture composed of solids and voids with an underlying Cubist influence. It is among the most striking and elegant creations by Gray, who was one of the leading designers working in Paris after World War I. Gray popularized and perfected the art of lacquered furnishings, and her preference for this meticulous finish reveals a predilection for exotic materials, in particular those used in Japanese decorative arts.
Based on a larger version that Gray designed in 1922 for the Paris apartment of Madame Mathieu-Lévy, the owner of an exclusive millinery shop, the freestanding screen can be seen as a bridge between furniture, architecture, and sculpture. Gray also was an accomplished textile designer and architect. Her first major architectural project, the E-1027 House in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France, was composed of multifunctional rooms and furniture, and was much admired by the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier. The flexibility inherent in that project was a continuation of Gray’s primary fascination in her earlier designs: pivoting parts and movable elements that transform both object and space.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
“Art is not just the expression of abstract relationships,” Gray has written, “It must also encapsulate the most tangible relations, the most intimate needs of subjective life.” Consistent with these aims, this freestanding lacquered wood screen functions both as a movable wall to divide space and as an abstract modern sculpture composed of solids and voids. Working in Paris after World War I, Gray popularized and perfected the meticulous art of lacquered furnishings, which struck a chord with the contemporary taste for exotic materials, especially those used in Japanese decorative arts.
Gallery label from 2019
This lacquered wood screen is composed of several horizontal rows of panels joined by thin vertical metal rods. It functions not only as a movable wall that demarcates space but also as a sculpture composed of solids and voids. Gray, one of the leading designers working in Paris after World War I, popularized and perfected the art of lacquered furnishings. Her preference for the meticulous finish of lacquer reveals the contemporary taste for materials used in Japanese decorative arts.
Gallery label from Designing Modern Women 1890–1990, October 5, 2013–October 1, 2014.