The false Don S. Shoemaker biography exposed

No Comments

Furthermore to the unfortunate Don S. Shoemaker exhibition of fakes, forgeries and attributions at the Mexico City Museo de Arte Moderno, I will share with you some anecdotal occurrences that I discovered when I went through the reading of the exhibition catalogue:

Among many pages of boring, mediocre and irrelevant data combined with an obvious lack of knowledge about the designer´s life and his oeuvre, the curator & writer of the catalogue presents a bizarre fabricated biography, misrepresenting events and misleading the reader completely about our designer´s personality and his spirit. I have picked some extracts from the biography (literally translated into English from the Spanish text), with my comments to each paragraph:

“Don Stanley Shoemaker Lohr (Nebraska, U.S.A., 22.01.1919 – Morelia, Michoacan, 20.05.1990) studied Art at the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago, with the help of his uncle Edwin Perkins (creator of the famous flavored beverage KOOL AID, one of the first soluble powders in the commercial food industry ambit). Later he enrolled into the Navy, to the 15th Engineer Combat Battalion; he was part of the historic Battle of Normandy at the Beach of Utah, one of the bloodiest fronts in the war, experience that would leave a lifetime mark on him. He was made prisoner by the Germans and sent to a Concentration Camp in France; by the end of 1945 he was liberated by General´s George Patton 3rd regiment. He was awarded with the Purple Heart and the Victory Cross.”

Historical WW II events:

  • Don was captured by Nazi Germany while serving in France, but the POW camp where he was sent to was not in France, it was located in Germany. George S. Patton on the other hand, set up in March of 1945 a secret and controversial task force called “Task Force Baum”, which was given the task of penetrating 50 miles behind German lines and liberating the POWs in camp OFLAG XIII-B, near Hammelburg (close to the camp where Don was held POW). Controversy surrounds the true reasons behind the mission, which may have been simply to liberate Patton’s son-in-law, John K. Waters, taken captive in Tunisia in 1943. The result of the mission was a complete failure; of the roughly 300 men of the task force, 32 were killed in action during the raid and only 35 made it back to Allied-controlled territory, with the remainder being taken prisoner.

Verified historical data:

  • Don was not liberated by George S. Patton´s 3rd regiment. Don received the Victory Cross, which was granted to all American WW II soldiers, however, he never was awarded with the Purple Heart Medal.

The biographical research work made by the MAM´s curatorial team was less than professional, historical events were deliberately distorted. Was the idea to write an entertaining novel or is it just a literary forgery with a fabricated biography of an artist, presented as a fact?

Text: “An unavoidable first question to make is: ¿How does Don Shoemaker arrive to Mexico and why he settles down in Morelia? By the end of the war Edwin Perkins inherited the stocks of KOOL AID to him, at the time that it was sold to GENERAL FOODS. This would allow him in the future to keep re-investing stocks for the rest of his life in different stock market businesses (from General Motors to Opal Mines in Australia), but above all, at that moment Shoemaker was able at last to dispose of sufficient capital to embark upon his dream of traveling through Latin America. Although he would not get too far, because same as happened to many other travelers in our country, like Edward James or Frank Kyle, he felt in love with Mexico and very soon settles down in Morelia together with his wife Barbara. By 1947 he established a wood button factory.”

The historical evidence:

  • The Perkins Products Company & Packit Envelope and Bag Company were exchanged for nearly 250,000 shares of General Foods stock in 1953. After the General Foods sale, Edwin and Kitty Perkins (Kitty´s maiden name was Shoemaker, she was Don´s aunt) established foundations for philanthropic purposes. After Edwin E. Perkins death in 1961, the family suffered through a challenge to the probate of his estate. However, this unpleasantness was settled out of court by the family, and Mrs. Kitty Perkins took over the reins of the philanthropies.

The coming down to earth reality:

  • Don did not inherit any Kool-Aid stocks, nor did he re-invest stocks for the rest of his life in different stock market businesses. He made the SEÑAL, S.A. company from scratch through hard work and sacrifice. Aunt Kitty however helped Don in the 1960’s with the funding for the purchase of a state-of-the-art factory equipment.
  • Don and Barbara arrived to San Miguel de Allende, Gto. in 1947, not to Morelia.

Note: the writer has very little knowledge on when and where Don and his wife Barbara settled down when they arrived in Mexico. The MAM vehemently claimed that the field investigation performed by their curatorial team was extensive, profound and conclusive, and that it was mainly focused on an IMMENSE photographic archive that the family owns, and also supported by a far bigger archive, which evidently was useless, right? As I have already stated in my previous post on this issue, the immense photographic archive that allegedly the curator´s work and research was supported by, actually was based on a shoe box that contained no more than 60 photographs, a few letters and some catalogue flyers of the SEÑAL, S.A.

Text: “Towards 1950 Shoemaker founded the SEÑAL, S.A. factory and starts to experiment in furniture design and manufacturing, although, due to a workers strike in 1955 he closes the factory and temporarily moves to New York. In 1960 Shoemaker comes back to Michoacan, to settle down for the rest of his life in Santa María de Guido, by that time a far suburb of the City of Morelia. There he re-assumes the furniture production, also he will start the production of complex marquetry wood floors; he began taking control over the early chain of production of the sawmill, and he takes advantage of it to export tropical hardwoods. This is the consolidation point of his most emblematic work: he designs furniture non stop, increasing his sales catalogue at the same time that he improvises the quantity of unique pieces, he creates the Sling Chair, his most iconic piece and starts using the wood remnants to manufacture the gifts line and smaller utility objects (like office articles, kitchen utensils, jewel boxes, ashtrays, buttons, etc.).”

“For several years the sawmill (part of the factory) prepared complete trunks and planks of precious tropical hardwoods for delivery to other parts of the world, like ongoing lots of cocobolo to Japan.”

Not actually the case, quite another story:

  • Don and Barbara arrived in Santa Maria de Guido in 1951, however, the company SEÑAL, S.A. was not established until 1960. Shoemaker never used his sawmill for mass hardwoods export, the sawmill´s purpose was to provide the woods supply used for the SEÑAL, S.A. furniture production only.  Don never exported any tropical wood planks and or trunks around the world. In fact, he always had a hard time trying to get the necessary hardwoods (specially cocobolo) for his studio line furniture designs. Sometimes, there was a scarcity of almost a year for the supply of tropical hardwoods, so, why would he sell entire lots of planks and trunks to Japan???

Our lousy biography author did not understand at all the furniture production process at SEÑAL, S.A. and its daily challenges.

Text: “Until the end of the 1970’s he is consumed by his work, while every day at 16:00 hrs. sharp he paints, (his heirs keep about 70 paintings, almost all of them in a medium size), practice that until the late 1980´s he exercised as a dilettante, at the same time as the serigraphy; the copies where on sale also at the SEÑAL, S.A. store (his family keeps at least 18 different proposals or graphics between lithography and serigraphy, besides some drawings). Compared to his furniture designs and his wood sculptures, most of Shoemaker´s paintings do not show any personal style nor do they carry any distinguishable evolution, it seems that his production was more hobby oriented and was inspired from other artists or movements to the point to imitate them openly, although generating an eclectic corps of paintings, they reveal a very cultivated curiosity for the painting history. This is how he made his version of the surrealistic “Vasos Comunicantes” from Diego Rivera or reinterprets the “Three Graces Myth”, being able to transit from a maternity of impressionist execution to a lyric abstraction, going through very naive mystic scenes, abject monstrosities, geometric-sized vegetable patterns, religious scenes of strong expressionism or picturesque landscapes.”

The closer truth:

  • Among many other activities, Don had been teaching painting & drawing for years at the “University Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo”, Mexico.

Our false biography writer notes that Don´s painting production was hobby oriented. Mmmmm. We should not forget about the fact that Don studied painting at the Fine Arts Institute in Chicago. However, our writer completely overslept that part, he only discovered that Don studied “Art”.

Text: “When Don Shoemaker died of an hearth attack in 1990, (even though he suffered from Parkinson for a long time before, which explains why his signature was not always the same), his son George gave continuity to the factory (to whom, together with his grandchildren Stanley and George Jr. he had already donated since 1988 the company´s stocks). George would produce new series (although limited) from old prototypes of his father, he would re-adapt some others in format (for example armchairs that Don had conceived for 1 person, George would develop the 2 and 3-seater versions) and he would design a few new objects himself, many of them marketed under the label “Arrendadora Shoemaker”, which specifies “Produced and/or designed by Shoemaker”, besides the complete address of the factory in Santa Maria de Guido. George died young in the year 2005, and even though the company was dissolved, his two sons Stanley and George Jr. would re-assume their grandfather´s legacy. Although they have designed some new models by themselves, for the time being they have decided that they would re-edit no more any of Don Shoemaker´s models, unless maybe in a future for personal use or maybe for a very special commemorative occasion.”

The absolute truth:

  • Don did not suffer from Parkinson´s disease, nor did he die of an hearth attack. That story was invented by the writer to explain certain signature differences on some of the drawings, after I presented the evidences to the INBA Director for all Museums, as well as the Secretary of Culture in Mexico, the MAM Director and the involved curator, of course.
  • Back in 1988 Don´s two grandchildren both were under-aged. When Don passed away in 1990 the SEÑAL, S.A. company was donated to his children and business partner.
  • George R. Shoemaker, Don´s only son, took over the business after Don passed away. Some time later, the SEÑAL, S.A. company was liquidated and George R. Shoemaker continued producing many of Don S. Shoemaker furniture designs under the ARRENDADORA SHOEMAKER label. George did not re-adapt Don S. Shoemaker furniture designs into 2 and 3-seater versions, he deeply respected his father´s furniture designs.
  • Interesting confession: “even though the company was dissolved, his two sons Stanley and George Jr. would re-assume their grandfather´s legacy. Although they have designed some new models by themselves, for the time being they have decided that they would re-edit no more any of Don Shoemaker´s models, unless maybe in a future for personal use or maybe for a very special commemorative occasion. Isn´t this explanation a clear acceptance to the wrong doing of the “family”, their fakes, attributions and forgeries and lots of furniture pieces of recent manufacture?

Again, here we have some remarkable biographical inconsistencies and misinterpretations of the truth. The “field investigation” or even better, “field day” investigation performed by the MAM curatorial team shown at its best! Besides all the fakes, forgeries, attributions, etc. published in the catalogue, we also have been graced with a false Don S. Shoemaker biography.

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

Don S. Shoemaker at Museo de Arte Moderno 2016 vs. Museo de Arte Moderno 1975

No Comments

Cover of the 1975 MAM catalog “Exposición Retrospectiva y Prospectiva de Diseño Mexicano”Beloved Don,

After more than 20 years of hard work, in the year 1975 you finally made it to Mexico´s Modern Art Museum (MAM) with some furniture pieces in the collective exhibition “Exposición Retrospectiva y Prospectiva de Diseño Mexicano”. 41 years later they have become iconic design works and proof of a beautiful mind; at the time it was already a legacy to the world and to the handcrafted and industrial design. During the next 15 years you kept developing restlessly new designs that nowadays we know as your heritage to humankind. In 1975, the Director of the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico (MAM) was Fernando Gamboa, first historiographer in Mexico and he has also been judged by history for his impeccable work (your lives were almost parallel, you both passed away in 1990 and he was 5 years older than you, furthermore, you two shared a real passion for honest work and perfection and were pioneers in your area of expertise and most relevant, none of you were affected by a pressing need of fame). You as well as other designers were fortunate enough to work with him like your partners in this exhibition: Po Shun Leong, Genaro Alvarez, Pal Kepenyes, Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Horacio Durán, etc. and many other artists through his life.

View of the exhibition at the Museo de Arte Moderno in 1975

Good old days in which the IMCE (Instituto Mexicano de Comercio Exterior) and other institutions were involved in funding this type of exhibitions and the Secretaria de Educación Pública was interested in promoting the work of different artists as their final goal, and not making obscure alliances with commercial purposes like the ones we are witnessing in our times.

Unfortunately the news that I bring to you today are bad, but as you can remember since we met for the first time, the deal was to tell you the truth even when I did not like one of your sketches for a piece of furniture, jewelry or any other object.

So here we go:

MUSEO DE ARTE MODERNO 2016 “Don S. Shoemaker Diseño Artesanal e Industrial

Invitation Museo de Arte Moderno to the Don S.Shoemaker exhibition (2016)

I will try to explain as succinct as possible the development of the wrong doing of the “family”.

In my website (launched in 2010, as you know) I started to denounce forgeries, attributions and copies like the “X-Chair”, some “Diamond” desks, two “Day Bed” models, and several tables of the “Parsons Line” (the “family” and the curator do not even know that this particular design, the original one, is a table, not a desk, and that it belongs to the Parsons Line) which by the way, one of them, a relative uses as her desk and commercialized it under that category.

During the last 7 years they have been trying to remain in a comfort zone in which a lot of people know who is producing all these abject monstrosities so I had been busy consulting different auction houses, 1stdibs.com, etc. and I have tried to maintain the Don S. Shoemaker furniture market controlled and away from many other things that the “family” have been producing lately, that, of course, these pieces do not belong to the SEÑAL, S.A. catalog.

In 2014, Iñaki, curator for the Modern Art Museum (MAM) in Mexico City contacted me to ask if a small piece of wood that he called an “abstract sculpture” that carried a fake “Don S. Shoemaker” label was original. I explained to him the motifs and reasons why it was a fake and in return, he decided to contact the “family”. Of course, they authorized the piece as “an original” and there began the great expectations of both parties. The same offer that Iñaki made to me of an exhibition at the MAM, that I refused, was made now to them. Iñaki with the purpose of self-glorification becoming THE DILETTANTE curator of Don S. Shoemaker and the “family” finding a way to authenticate the trash they have been selling.

In 2015 during the month of June, the DS exhibition was announced to take place concomitant to the DESIGN WEEK MEXICO event in October 2015. I had a brief conversation with the MAM´s director and she decided to postpone the exhibition to a future date. I guess at this moment they did not have the back-up of the patrons of DESIGN WEEK, whom by the way own a furniture and interior design showroom named BLEND.

In 2016, a leak of information about the programming of a DS exhibition at the MAM concurrent with DESIGN WEEK MEXICO 2016, enlightened me of the pieces that they were already preparing to show as “DS original production”. At that very moment I decided to contact the Secretary of Culture of Mexico. I prepared more than enough evidence to proof the wrong doing of the “family”, their fakes, attributions and forgeries and unfortunately lots of furniture pieces of recent manufacture that they claimed were originals, prototypes, unique pieces, numbered pieces, signed and limited editions, and many other appellatives that in conjunction with Iñaki and his curatorial team were ready to authenticate and present at this exhibition.

So my pilgrimage started with the Director of International Affairs at the Secretaria de Cultura de México. Then the INBA Director; she set up a meeting with the Director of all Museums in Mexico, including the MAM´s director and Iñaki. By the way, I have the recordings of all the meetings in which they claimed that the field investigation performed by Iñaki was extensive, profound and conclusive, and that it was mainly focused on the immense photographic archive that the family owns and preserved in perfect condition, and supported by a far bigger archive of I do not know what, because evidently it was of no use. I told to all these people that the immense photographic archive that allegedly Iñaki´s work and research was supported by, actually was based on a shoe box that contained no more than 60 photographs, a few letters and some catalog flyers of the SEÑAL, S.A., now on display at the Don S. Shoemaker exhibition at the museum. I coined the term “field trip investigation” to refer to the work of Iñaki. I was right!

At that moment I thought that with all the evidence that I presented, among others: letters of collectors outraged by the flood of forgeries, fakes and attributions, treasure hunters who instead of treasure witnessed the production in 2010 and 2012 of different furniture pieces (now on display at the MAM), and letters of people who bought for example the so called “X-Chairs”, claiming that they were deceived, some others from galleries that had to return the money to their clients, etc. and sustained by all the respect that I had for the Secretaria de Cultura, in my candidness, I thought that they were going to evaluate the situation and realize that after being exposed Mr. Iñaki the way I did, and after having exposed the dates, models and recent production of the “family” I was going to get a favorable verdict and that the name of Don S. Shoemaker and his legacy would have remained unspotted, far from the mud and more important, unrelated to all the felonies, lies and stupidity of Iñaki and company. Of course, the issue of the MAM´s involvement as a main player in the launching and marketing of the heir´s plagiarism designs was a main discussion theme with all the Secretaria de Cultura people and time gave me the reason. SO SAD…

So sad, because the exhibition of what was supposed to be your work opened last Wednesday October 5th with full endorsement from all the people of the Secretaria de Cultura, and to my deepest and sincere discomfort I was right, from all the furniture pieces shown at the MAM maybe there are 4 or 5 that were produced by SEÑAL, S.A. And the worst part is that with no credentials at all, the grandchildren (I do not know if you remember them, but they are the little kids that you saw time after time), using the line “my grandfather was Don S. Shoemaker”, now they made it to show some pieces with the help of Mr. Iñaki, who is far from being a reliable curator to the point in which I will quote his words:“se habló con ex trabajadores que aún viven, que trabajaron con Don que ayudaron a fechar y a deducir los tipos de madera exacta de los muebles en las fotografías”. That´s what the Secretaria de Cultura called an academic investigation!???? At least, Iñaki mentioned on the Exhibition´s Acknowledgement List the name of the only ex-worker who helped him to date and deduce from a photography the exact wood species used in the depicted piece of furniture, and by extension, of course, the newly made ones.

New desk showed at the Don S. Shoemaker exhibition at the MAM (2016)

The X-Chair exhibited at the Don S. Shoemaker exhibition at the Modern Art Museum, Mexico City (2016)

But guess what, today you can see an “interpretation” of Don S. Shoemaker´s Sling Chair on sale at BLEND store made by Stanley, that’s what I call appropriation! You will also find at the MAM´s DS exhibition a “desk”, the new “Sling Chair” and the “X-Chair”, as well as the “Diamond Desk” that I denounced and many pieces produced in the last 5 years that carry a description card like the one that describes the chair used for the wallpaper and the invitation to the exhibition in which you can read: “Don S. Shoemaker, Silla Años 1960 (ensamblada en 2016 con partes originales, tapizada en 2016) Granadillo. Colección Familia Shoemaker. Esta pieza fue revisada por técnicos especialistas del CENCROPAM y de la Escuela de Artesanías del INBA en Septiembre, 2016”

Depicted chair on the invitation - shown at the exhibition (2016)

I have a question for you, Mr. Iñaki: if the grandson of a novelist publishes under his name exactly the same text of one of his grandfather´s novels but written only in capitals, how would you call it, a reinterpretation or a simple and clear appropriation? Or is this one of the liberties that you can indulge yourself, that of course Mr. Fernando Gamboa would never have approved. But I have a confession to make to Mr. Iñaki: I am a little bit jealous of his exhibition because during the last 7 years, as I said, I have been unsuccessful to make this overwhelming exposé of the fakes, forgeries, attributions, etc. that you have been able to put together under the roof of the MAM. CONGRATULATIONS!!! You managed to orchestrate the perfect exposé and I give you all the credits.

P.S.: Please tell George Richard that due to his absence (how convenient), now he is being blamed for all the recent production, for example the “Salas Elefante”, sold in auction in 2010 and most of the reproductions on display at the MAM´s exhibition. Hugs and kisses for you two guys as always!

Warm Regards,

Karin

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

ZONA MACO visitors captivated by Don S. Shoemaker designs

No Comments

ZONA MACO Salón del Anticuario 2014 first edition was presented in Mexico City last month. I happened to be visiting the city during those days and I decided to check on this new Antiques Show. My adventure definitively paid off! Even tough the exhibition area was rather small, my attention was immediately captured by one of the participating galleries who had an amazing collection of Don S. Shoemaker´s furniture pieces and accessories on display.

Don Shoemaker´s overwhelming presence at Zona MACO

Don Shoemaker´s iconic furniture as seen at Zona MACO-Salón del Anticuario 2014

Modernist Don Shoemaker’s stole the show in Zona MACO with this Bar Set

I also found this sample of William Spratling’s superb work in silver from the 1940’s, a wooden box containing these 12 silver goblets, intact, never used, with its original wrapping paper…

An amazing set of 12 William Spratling Silver Goblets (1940’s)

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.
@donshoemaker.com

Don’s Modernist Mexican Butaque Chair interpretation

2 Comments

continued from part # 5

As described in my previous post series about the Mexican Butaque, we have seen several samples and interpretations of these emblematic chairs coming from different regions and designers in Mexico. Considering all the information and research data that I have gathered in the past years, it is without a doubt that William Spratling is the true Father of the Mexican 20th Century Butaque chair rebirth, not Clara Porset, as many have tried to argue. Clara Porset as well as many other designers from that same period of time basically followed Spratling. Using his designs as an “inspiration” or just plagiarized and mass-reproduced the chair in cheaper woods with minimal changes.

When Don S. Shoemaker arrived to Mexico this small charming chair also called his attention, but our master had his own ideas… He envisioned the Butaque chair from a modernist point of view: the design had to be organic and it had to be made with dark and heavy tropical woods. On this basis, instead of using the typical arch that conform the legs of a butaque chair, he presented us with a beautiful organic composition of his chair legs. Moreover, he gave the flair of a sling chair using softer black leather instead of the traditional “vaqueta” leather that his predecessors had been employing. And of course, he did not attach it to the lateral body of the chair, and instead of using the round head rivets for this purpose on the top and low rail he developed a system that today is his trademark of fixing the leather to the hardwood: his iconic leather “sunflowers”.

Bronze rivet (19th Century) and Don’s leather rivet (1960’s)

The Sling “Sloucher” Chair was one of Don’s very first chair projects. The result: a very unique interpretation of a modernist Mexican Butaque! By 1960 he introduced the chair as we know it today:

Sling "Sloucher" Chair by Don S. Shoemaker (1960's)

The Sling “Sloucher” Chair is Don’s flagship, these chairs were an essential part of his SEÑAL, S.A. furniture catalog together with the Sling “Swinger” Chair and the Sling “Suspension” Stool.

Sling Casuals Catalog page (1960’s)

As we have seen, the exotic Mexican Butaque Chair has a long history in furniture design; Don’s modernist Butaque was the last evolution of this graceful chair, no other designer in Mexico has succeeded in the attempt to create a new form for the last 50 years.

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

What is the difference between a Mexican Campeche Chair and a Butaque? – Part 2

1 Comment

Furniture commonly used in the 16th Century Mexico was Spanish in style, but adapted by native craftsmen, it acquired distinctive characteristics. Popular at the beginning of the Colonial era were the bargueños, chests, beds, benches, chairs, tables, trunks, boxes, and carved frames. In the history of Mexican marquetry furniture, outstanding pieces were produced in Mexico City, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Oaxaca, Campeche and Durango. The first inventory listings with mention of such furniture are from the early 17th Century.

By the turn of the 18th Century a great number of marquetry furniture was being made throughout Mexico, geometric figures and vegetable forms being the most characteristic motifs. Diverse woods of the various regions were used: balsam, Mexican cherry, mahogany, maple, cedar, orangewood, lemonwood, sapote, pine, mulberry, palisander, granadilla and poplar, among others. Much of Campeche´s artisans work was also decorated with shell inlay and many of their famed writing desks were exported to South America. On the other hand, their famous marquetry inlaid “Campeche” chairs went to the US and the Caribbean.

Campeche Chair (1810-1825)

A 19th Century Mexican Campeche Chair as seen in the early 1900’s

Mexican Campeche Chair (19th Century)

Mexican Butaque (19th Century)

Today, we may still find a great variety of “Butaques” in Mexico. The “Sillas de Campeche” made in the state of Campeche were known for their beautiful marquetry decoration, while at Haciendas, ranches and Colonial residences in Jalisco, the chair is called “Miguelito” chair. This version however, even if it is similar to a “Silla de Campeche”, the design is more simple and austere. In Tehuantepec, they are made entirely of wood, with cross-slats giving shape to the back and seat. Butaques from the state of Veracruz had caned-seats, making them ideal for the hot and humid climate; and those from the Yucatán Peninsula are made with cowhide or deerskin, sometimes decorated across the top with elegant low-relief carvings.

Mexican Campeche Chairs (1960’s)

A Butaca from Jalisco (Miguelito Chair)

Wooden Butaque Chair from Tehuantepec

Caned Butaque Chair from Veracruz (early 20th Century)

A Yucatán Butaque Chair

Butaque Rocking Chair from Yucatán

to be continued in part # 3

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

What is the difference between a Campeche and a Butaque Chair?– Part 1

No Comments

Samples of the emblematic “Butaque” chairs can be found in many regions of Mexico, the U.S., the Caribbean, and other countries that were on the galleon trade routes such as the Philippines, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon). In American and European furniture and decorative arts literature the term “Campeche” (or the anglicized ‘campeachy’) is used to describe these exotic types of chairs. Most sources claim that these low chairs were named for the Bay of Campeche (Gulf of Mexico) and the port city of Campeche on the Yucatán Peninsula, where they were exported to American and European ports and other destinations in the Caribbean. Another version argues that the chair’s “Campeche” name derives from the mahogany known as blood wood or logwood (Haemotoxylon campechianum) used in its construction, which came from the Mexican state of Campeche.

Spanish colonists introduced the “Campeche” chair (also known as the “Butaca”) to Louisiana where they became extremely popular amongst the French Creole aristocracy who called them “Boutac chairs” and introduced them into their Plantation Houses in the Bayous and along the Mississippi River. This peculiar leather-seated chair made from ox-hide or mule-hide stretched on a mahogany wood frame, was ideal for lounging in a tropical climate and unlike upholstered furniture, it was free from insects. Early 19th-Century inward foreign cargo manifests in the collection of the National Archives and Records in Fort Worth, Texas, document the shipment of “Spanish chairs”, “Boutaque chairs”, and “arm-chairs” from coastal towns of the Yucatán—Campeche, Veracruz, Sisal and Tabasco—to the port of New Orleans from about 1800 to 1825. Thomas Jefferson appears to have popularized the chair when he served as President, and he continued to use it during his retirement at Monticello. Jefferson favored the “Campeachy” chair form for its classical associations and the comfortable posture it offered, referring to it as “that easy kind of chair.”

The chairs feature an X-form leg and stretcher, one leg of which extends up to form a curved stile for the back, the other forming the seat rail, between these extensions is attach a leather ‘sling’ – often goatskin – which forms the seat and back – the equivalent of a contemporary lounge chair.

Some historic documents indicate that the Mexican “Butaques” brought the form to Havana, Cuba, where it is also called a “Campeche”. Many examples found in the island are known as “Planter’s chairs”, “Havana chairs” or “Smoker’s chairs”. In Jamaica they are known as “Spanish chairs”, in the French colonies such as Martinique and Guadeloupe, they were called “Lazy Man’s chair” or simply “Lazy chairs” (later to be echoed in the Philippines with the term ‘Silla Perezosa’ or “Lazy chair”). Nowadays, these chairs can be found in many countries within Latin America, Spain, the Canary Islands, and in locations that were situated along 18th-Century Spanish trade routes in Asia.

to be continued in Part # 2

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

Mexican Modernism – Furniture Design in Mexico – Part # 8

No Comments

….continued

One Mexican furniture designer and manufacturer that made a big splash back in the 1970’s was IDEA. This company designed unique furniture pieces combining small blocks of different types of wood with chrome and glass; their model range included elegant office furniture, a variety of cabinets, bars, room dividers, bookcases, lamps and many other gadgets. Their 2 showrooms were located in Mexico City. IDEA´s furniture pieces are easily recognizable; I have included some wonderful samples:

Diego Matthai, Mexican architect and designer is most likely our best representative for furniture designs that integrate modern materials such as chrome into vernacular Mexican forms. Matthai was a pupil of Mathias Goeritz, whose work was heavily influenced by the Bauhaus. Matthai has completed projects of all kinds: office buildings and apartments, private residences, shops, boutiques, malls, office interiors, clubs, restaurants, bars, monumental sculptures and murals. He has also designed jewelry, clothing, accessories and many others. Since the beginning of his career he developed a special interest in furniture design and furnishings. The iconic “Mexico Chair” from 1971 is probably his best-known furniture piece.

…to be continued in part # 9

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

Mexican Modernism – Furniture Design in Mexico – Part # 4

No Comments

William Spratling was an American-born silversmith and artist, best-known for his influence on 20th century Mexican silver design. He established a model for the artistic development and growth of the silver industry in Taxco and deserves the title “Father of Contemporary Mexican Silver”.

Spratling visited Mexico for the first time in 1926. He returned for summers over the next several years, and in 1929, he finally moved to Mexico. He quickly integrated himself into the Mexican art scene and became a friend and a strong proponent of the work of muralist Diego Rivera, for whom he organized an exhibition at the MoMA in New York. Using money received from commissions he organized for Rivera, Spratling purchased a home in Taxco, southwest of Mexico City. In 1931, the US Ambassador to Mexico, Dwight Morrow, suggested to Spratling that the city of Taxco had been the site of silver mines for centuries, but had never been considered a location where jewelry and objects of silver were designed and made. Subsequently, Spratling hired an experienced goldsmith from Iguala who moved to Taxco and created silver jewelry of Spratling’s design. Other craftsmen joined Spratling’s shop and produced tin ware, copper items, textiles and furniture – all designed by Spratling. These earliest designs were based on pre-Columbian motifs as well as simple themes utilizing rope borders, strap designs and other such basic ideas. He often adopted the stylized animal motifs found in Mexican pottery and incorporated native materials such as amethyst and rosewood into his designs. The workshop grew far beyond Spratling’s expectations… By 1940 Spratling employed 300 artisans and Taxco had become a major tourist destination for those seeking silverwork. He began to export silver items to U.S. department stores including Neiman Marcus, Macy’s and Saks. Ironically, the 1940’s boom in Taxco silver production ultimately led to the downfall of Spratling’s company “Spratling y Artesanos”, which by 1946 went out of business. In 1951 Spratling founded a new company—William Spratling, S.A. and continued to work throughout the 1950’s and ’60’s. His designs were also produced by the Conquistador Company in Mexico City for a couple of years.

When talking about Spratling´s highly appreciated furniture designs, Marilyn Monroe was among the celebrities that purchased his furniture pieces. Spratling’s silver designs have always been copied but now, perhaps because of the higher prices Spratling’s name commands I have seen an increasing number of William Spratling attributed furniture pieces.

Don S. Shoemaker is in my opinion the most remarkable representative of Mexico Modernism furniture design. Don and his wife Barbara settled down in Santa Maria Guido, Morelia in 1951. Don began producing wooden items, including jewelry pieces, hand carved bowls and decorative accessories, as well as some early rustic furniture designs made from hardwoods grown in the local mountains. The first couple of years were less than easy and in 1955 the Shoemakers were forced to leave the country; their small enterprise became a cooperative which soon after was closed. Their life project continued when the Mexican government invited them to return to Morelia and the furniture workshop SEÑAL, S.A. was founded.

Don left us an unrivaled aesthetic legacy through his furniture designs; he developed his very own identity and style which remained evolving throughout his whole career maintaining the principles of high quality hand-craftsmanship and the intensive use of native Mexican exotic woods. His organic forms were unmatchable by any other furniture designer of his time. During his more than 3 decades of dedicated work Don designed a significant number of iconic furniture masterpieces, all produced in hardwoods, which he favored for their inherent strength, durability and magnificent beauty:

•Organic designs: the most unique “Scissor” Sling chair (an armchair with folding braces), his “Sloucher” and “Swinger” Sling chairs.

•Rectilinear designs: the “Parsons Line” including suites for every room.

•Coffee table designs: the “Cuerno”, “Sling” and “Descanso” coffee tables.

•Dining room set designs: the “Sling” dining room set, cabinets and sideboards.

•Lounge and living room designs: the “Descanso” set and the “Pernos” Lounge set.

•Progressive designs: the famous stack-laminated “Diamond” desk and tables.

Below are some pictures from my personal Don S. Shoemaker collection, a look into the Shoemaker mood when you have a home completely furnished by our master:

Don´s heir, George R. Shoemaker, takes over the company in 1990, after Don passed away. However the decision was taken to liquidate the company SEÑAL, S.A. and George formed a new firm with the name “ARRENDADORA SHOEMAKER”. George continued reproducing Don´s designs under this new label; he improved some of Don´s furniture lines and he developed some own new furniture designs. One of George´s masterpieces are his iconic Bar Sets produced in cueramo, he only made a limited edition of 5 of them. However, I will not present at this time any pictures of this magnificent Bar Set to avoid future forgeries.

Unfortunately, George´s health declines extremely fast and production activity goes to almost zero. George passes away and the workshop finally closes in the early 2000’s. Many George R. Shoemaker furniture pieces are copied and sold as “Don S. Shoemaker originals” not recognizing George´s talent and contribution to his Dad´s work. He was a great designer by his own right. He had a restless mind and he also experimented in Art Nouveau, Art Deco and even English XIX Century styles.

Po Shun Leong is an artist, former architect, sculptor and furniture maker. Of Chinese origin, Leong was born in London and lived in Mexico for 15 years. He arrived in Mexico in 1964. For several years, he practiced architecture, designing a series of large furniture stores, residences and commercial exhibitions. He developed many furniture designs and was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Knoll International Furniture Competition, 2 Gold Medal Awards for fiberglass furniture in the IMCE, (Mexican Export Competition) and two 1st prizes in the low cost furniture competition.

In the early 1980’s the Leong family immigrated to Southern California. He set up a studio in his garage to produce prototypes and taught himself woodworking. He became known since the late 1980’s for his highly intricate and inspiring one-of-a-kind wood boxes that have been enthusiastically acquired and are in many museum collections. Po Shun has created at least a 1000 boxes and one-of-a-kind furniture objects. Lately he has been experimenting with bent plywood forms to produce affordable furniture.

I already published some posts on Po Shun Leong’s stay in Mexico, and his friendship with Don S. Shoemaker (see Don S. Shoemaker and Po Shun Leong Parts 1 & 2 and Mexican Design exhibition at the MAM in 1975 – Part #3).

…to be continued in part # 5

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

Mexican Modernism – Furniture Design in Mexico – Part # 2

No Comments

Juan O’Gorman, famous Mexican painter, muralist and architect. Juan was the elder son of an Irish mining engineer and painter who settled down in Mexico back in 1895. O’Gorman was one of first Mexican architects to break with traditional Mexican style. Influenced by Le Corbusier and other European Modernists, he produced some of the first examples of functionalist architecture in Mexico. One of O’Gorman´s early commissions was the house and studio for renowned painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, built in 1931-32. As O’Gorman matured he became disenchanted with functionalism and temporarily abandoned architectural practice, devoting himself entirely to the mural painting. But he returned to architecture in the early 1950’s inspired by the works of Frank Lloyd Wright; he advocated a form of organic architecture and integrated vernacular forms and detailing with modern structural and spatial arrangements to achieve a culturally, socially, and environmentally significant architecture.

O’Gorman painted a number of well-known murals in Mexico City, making him a member of the generation of renowned Mexican muralists that followed the big 3: Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco. His paintings often treated Mexican history, landscape and legends. O’Gorman’s most notable work however is the monumental mosaic on the walls of the UNAM Library (1953). This is the world’s largest mural with more than 3 million pieces of naturally-colored stones and glass, which took 2 years to complete and covers all 4 walls of the building.

Some of O’Gorman´s early design ideas were austere and visibly influenced by Le Corbusier, later he created some very exquisite mosaic designs translated into beautiful furniture pieces like the coffee table shown below.

Mathias Goeritz was a well-known painter, sculptor and designer of German origin. After spending much of the 1940’s in North Africa and Spain, Goeritz and his wife photographer Marianne Gast, immigrated to Mexico in 1949. In 1953 Goeritz published the “Arquitectura Emocional” manifesto where he declared that “architecture’s principal function is emotion”. Luis Barragán adopted the term and it influenced his work. The Mathias Goeritz – Luis Barragán professional relationship and friendship lasted almost 17 years; they were united – among other things – by a mutual admiration for the Bauhaus, the Moorish and Mediterranean architecture and they incorporated Euro-American Modernist design into the existing Mexican landscape and color scheme, creating a unique and exhilarating new design style in Mexico. They worked together in the project Torres de Satélite (1957–58) guided by Goeritz’s “Emotional Architecture” principles; however, the authorship of this project would ultimately lead to a dispute that would end their collaboration and friendship.

Goeritz defended a stance of anonymity and the absence of vanity in regards to his labor, adopting a total and disinterested dedication, like the craftsmen of the past had done. He exhibited widely in Mexico and beyond throughout his life, and he had a significant influence on younger Mexican artists such as Helen Escobedo and Pedro Friedeberg. His rebellious nature and vigorous promotion of the avant-garde made him a leading figure in the development of Modern Art in Mexico.

Regarding Goeritz’ furniture designs, he created some remarkable pieces on commission including complete dining room and living room sets. However, I will not publish the dining room set and service cart that I have in my private collection to avoid forgers from producing cheap knock-offs.

Chair for El Eco by Mathias Goeritz and Daniel Mont (1952-1953)

Mexican artist María Lagunes, born in Veracruz, is recognized for opening the path of contemporary experimentation in the artistic expressions of the 60’s and 70’s. The French government gave her a scholarship in 1966 to study the integration of sculpture with architecture and urbanism. She also had the chance to study engraving with Japanese artists and experimental ceramics with famous Mexican artist Juan Soriano. In 1973 she was invited to exhibit at the Le Salon de Mai in the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, and was invited back on several occasions, most recently in the year 2000. She also deserves special mention for her participation in 2005 in the revitalization of the Roman Theater of Spoleto (Umbria, Italy). Over the years, her characteristic language evolved from naturalistic forms (human, animal, vegetable) to geometric volumes, depending on the materials chosen: steel, wood, marble, onyx or bronze, this last one (her favorite), is used for most of her creations – but she has also experimented with fiberglass, textiles, metal mesh and recycled materials.

Since her first solo exhibition in 1965, the theme of the city and the man has pervaded her work. The city, the people, the constant flow, the conglomeration are themes captured with ingenuity and shrewdness in each of Lagunes’ works. Her unique work covers sculptures, drawings, paintings and tapestry, which can be found in many public and private collections in Europe and America. I am a profound admirer of her work and her tireless creativity; we have spent many hours together, and she has tried (with a lot of patience) to teach me the very first steps on sculptural forms. I experimented with a wax plaster model she asked me to assemble; when I finally managed somehow to put it together it ended up looking like a “wrapped-up baby”.

María´s furniture-sculptures are particularly special; her Almacén de Recuerdos (Storehouse of Memories) Chest of Drawers Series are matchless:

 …to be continued in part # 3

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

Collecting Don´s wooden sculptures

No Comments

Collecting Don´s sculptures in wood can be very exciting and entertaining. Through the years I accumulated quite a few pieces and I enjoy very much having them around. Don inspired himself from Mexican folklore and designed remarkable pieces that would represent bats, scorpions and other symbolic animals from the Mexican Pre-Hispanic period. These works of art were made with different kinds of woods from the region, sometimes inlaid with colored stones, sometimes just nicely carved.

 Don´s box designs from the “Animal” Series were also quite unique. Some time ago, in one of my posts I already showed you the “Owl” box; here we have a nice sample of his “Hippopotamus” box:

 Don´s imagination and creativity was also inspired by organic forms, female curves and hands:

All of the above pictured pieces carry the decal studio label. There are of course many other interesting works that I could present from Don´s sculptural creations, however, I have only selected a few examples to prevent forgers from trying to copycat his designs.

 

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

 

Older Entries