Chicago Cultural Center’s Chicago Rooms Host Exhibit Of Modernism, May 18-August 17

May 4, 2013

Rarely Seen Designs and Sculptures from Alfonso and Margaret Iannelli

DCASE    312.744.3316

David Bowie’s “Modern Love” might make an appropriate theme song for Alfonso and Margaret Iannelli, for it was their love of modernism that brought the two uniquely different artists together.

Opening on May 18 and continuing through August 17 in the Chicago Rooms at the Chicago Cultural Center, (78 E. Washington) is Modernism’s Messengers: The Art of Alfonso and Margaret Iannelli. In this show, one discovers not only the love they both had for modernism, but also the love that they had for each other.

Alfonso was born in Italy and came to the United States embracing all things American. Margaret was from an old American family which predated the Revolutionary War, but she looked outside the country to the art of Japan and European modernists for inspiration.

Margaret was an artist in her own right, a child prodigy highlighted in the LA Times at the age of 12, she collaborated often with her husband. Despite their differences, their work inspired each other and the collaboration was such that one might not know where Margaret’s work ended and Alfonso’s began. Sadly, she would eventually be committed to a sanitarium, though she continued to provide illustrations and art for Rand McNally and the Winnetka School System.

Alfonso Iannelli arrived in Chicago in 1914 to work with Frank Lloyd Wright on the Midway Gardens. By the next year, Margaret joined him in Chicago and they made the city their home, opening a studio in Park Ridge which they maintained for 46 years. While the Gardens and works such as pavilions and exhibits for the 1933 World’s Fair would not last, one of Iannelli’s sculptures is on display every day in downtown Chicago -- the relief of the Rock of Gibraltar on the side of the Prudential Building, and Park Ridge is still the home of one of his collaborations, the Pickwick Theater.

They set as their goal to bring Modern Art to everyone and found a unique way to carry their message. Their work expanded into commercial design and advertising, in addition to architectural interiors. 

Alfonso’s work for Sunbeam Products allowed him the opportunity to bring modernism into product design.  His work was on display at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, and products that he created include the C-20 Coffeemaster vacuum coffeemaker and the Osterizer kitchen blender with his prototype tapered glass vessel that’s been a familiar part of blenders ever since.  And it’s more than likely his design for the Oster Mixer has created the milk shake for many a diner throughout the country.

This exhibit will include the wide expanse of the Iannellis work including such early pieces as Alfonso’s grade school drawings.

The long and successful career that the Iannellis enjoyed in Chicago emphasizes a strong tenet of the Chicago Cultural Plan which is attracting and retaining artists. That is a practice in Chicago’s history and a goal of today. Additionally, this exhibit promotes the values and impact of culture and fosters cultural innovation.

Exhibition hours are Monday – Thursday, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. The Chicago Rooms are located on the second floor of the Chicago Cultural Center.

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Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy. This includes fostering the development of Chicago’s non-profit arts sector, independent working artists and for-profit arts businesses; providing a framework to guide the City’s future cultural and economic growth, via the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan; marketing the City’s cultural assets to a worldwide audience; and presenting high-quality, free and affordable cultural programs for residents and visitors.

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