Alexander Girard

Alexander Girard (May 24, 1907 – 1993) was born in New York City to an American mother form Boston and a French-Italian father. He was raised in Florence, Italy. A graduate of the Royal School of Architecture in Rome, Girard refined his skills in both Florence and New York. Girard is widely known for his contributions in the field of American textile design, particularly through his work for Herman Miller (1952 to 1975), where he created fabrics for the designs of George Nelson and Charles and Ray Eames. His work also includes designing the La Fonda del Sol Restaurant in New York (1960), the Herman Miller Showplace: T&O (Textiles and Objects) (1961), Braniff Airlines (1965). and the Girard Foundation (1962), which houses his extensive folk art collection. He and his wife, Susan Girard, amassed a remarkable collection of artifacts comprising of folk art, popular art, toys, and textiles from around the world, which is displayed through the Girard Foundation, founded 1962.

Girard At Herman Miller

Herman Miller Textiles Division

In 1952, Alexander Girard was hired to head the fabric and textile division. Girard worked with George Nelson and Charles and Ray Eames to form a design team that has influenced the fundamentals of design throughout the United States and the rest of the world. Girard initially established a fabric collection based on his architectural training. His first fabric line consisted of plain upholsteries and geometric drapery prints—stripes, circles, and triangles. He went on to create many more patterns and designs, largely inspired by folk art. He also worked with a 19th Century textile mill he discovered in central Mexico, to create a line of handwoven 100% cotton fabrics. Because of the excellent quality and array of colors available, he developed a range of colorful “mexidots”and “mexistripes” which he used in many of his projects including installation backing, ground for environmental enrichment panels and upholstery.

Girard also developed a furniture collection for Herman Miller in 1967 building on his designs for Braniff Airlines' lounge and office furniture which featured a low sight line and interior/exterior shell separate from the seat cushion to maximize varied upholstery. Originals from this collection are rare and have become highly collectible. In 1971 he developed forty screen printed graphics on fabrics for Robert Propst’s Action Office 2 System. These Environmental Enrichment panels add a touch of warmth, color, and design to the office environment.

T&O (Textiles and Objects) 1961

This Herman Miller showplace was a unique space filled with textiles and folk art pieces on Manhattan’s East 53rd street. Textiles and Objects was an innovation demonstrating textiles as an integral part of interior displays for both designers and the individual consumer. The showroom also featured folk art Girard collected from around the world and handmade dolls by fellow designer, Marilyn Neuhart. T&O closed in shortly after opening, due to insufficient marketing and a public was not quite ready to add such colorful and exotic objects to the typical 1950’s palette of their homes.

Independent projects

Braniff Airlines

In the mid-1960s, Girard began his design work for Braniff International Airways re-branding – “The end of the plane plain”. This project gave Girard the opportunity to work with textiles, color, and graphics on a grand scale, redesigning everything from the sugar packets to the ticket counters to the color of the planes themselves. He used colors like light and dark blue, beige, ochre, orange, turquoise, and muted yellow to make the planes recognizable from the ground. Italian couturier fashion designer Emilio Pucci designed attendant uniforms.

Restaurants

The La Fonda del Sol 1961 Commissioned by Jerome Brody of Restaurant Associates, Girard designed every aspect the La Fonda del Sol restaurant in a Latin American/Contemporary theme, including menus, matchbooks, tableware and the ceramic tiles on the floors and walls. Girard created over eighty different sun motifs found throughout the restaurant.

Girard was also commissioned by Brody to design the L'Etoile Restaurant (1966)in the Sherry Netherlands Hotel, New York, a French restaurant with austere decor featuring a range of silver and greys featuring glass engraved with the names of French luminaries and playful daisy shaped tables in the bar. [Interiors Magazine, 1966] The Compound Restaurant (1967), in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is in a clean modern yet traditional New Mexican style with inlaid Mexicotton ceiling tiles and nichos featuring a mix of folk art and Girard’s own designs.

Georg Jensen

In 1956, Just Lunning, president of Georg Jensen, commissioned Girard to design seven table settings for an exhibition on 5th Avenue in New York. Each setting was created around a vignette outlining the personalities and situations of the company at the particular table. He created place mats and dishes specific to the project.

John Deere

Girard was commissioned to create a mural for the John Deere Company, in the entrance to their administration building designed by Saarinen near Moline, Illinois. The mural is one hundred eighty feet long and eight feet high, created entirely with three dimensional found objects.

The Girard Foundation

In 1962, Girard and his wife established the Girard Foundation in Santa Fe to manage their art collection that numbered over 100,000 pieces., including toys, dolls, icons, and other ethnic expressions. Girard's design work was heavily influenced by his passion for folk art. In 1978, Girard contributed his immense collection to the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. The museum opened to the public in 1953 and has gained national and international recognition as home to the world’s largest collection of folk art. The collection of more than 135,000 artifacts forms the basis for exhibitions in four distinct wings: Bartlett, Girard, Hispanic Heritage, and Neutrogena.

The [http://www.internationalfolkart.org/about/girard.html Girard Wing] houses the popular permanent exhibition, "Multiple Visions: A Common Bond", which showcases folk art, popular art, toys and textiles from more than 100 nations. Opening in 1982, this unorthodox and delightful exhibition was hand picked and designed by Girard, and remains open to the public.

Additional projects

*Radio cabinets,interiors for Detrola Corporation (1943)
*Exhibition design, "Design for Modern Use, Made in U.S.A." Museum of Modern Art (1950)
*Rieveschi residence, Grosse Pointe, Michigan (1951)
*Exhibition design, "Good Design" Home Furnishings Exhibition, Museum of Modern Art (1954)
*Exhibition design,"Textiles and Ornamental Arts of India"Museum of Modern Art (1954)
*"Day of the Dead" documentary film, collaboration with Charles Eames (1956)
*Nativity Exhibition, sponsored by Hallmark Cards, Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri
*Penthouse apartment for Hallmark Cards, Hallmark Building, Kansas City(1662)
*Gregory residence, Wayzata, Minnesota (1963)
*Indian government commissioned Girard and Eames to design the Memorial Exhibition for Nehru, Delhi, India (1965)
*"El Encanto de un Pueblo (The Magic of a People): International Exhibit for Hemisfair, San Antonio, Texas (1968)

máXimo: art and design research

máXimo is the official agent to the Estate of Alexander Girard and is responsible for re-introducing Girard designs to the contemporary marketplace. Girard was not a self promoter and his work at Herman Miller and elsewhere was geared towards the exclusive contract world and interior designers. With the brief exception of the T&O shop, his work was never available directly to the public. After his retirement, many of the designs fell into disuse while Girard focused on his folk art collection and designing the exhibit at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe.

In 2000, máXimo partnered with the Girard family to bring his extensive body of work back to life by joining with select companies internationally such as Maharam, Herman Miller, Kate Spade, Chronicle Books, and Vitra on design driven products and educational programs. In some cases, these collaborations result in exact replicas of original Girard objects and designs. However, máXimo also works with young design companies who have been inspired by Girard and bring new interpretations to the work such as House Industries in the development of a Girard font collection and related accessories. In addition, máXimo re-issues archival screen printed fabrics and is the source for all related products.

Exhibitions

*Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, "The Opulent Eye of Alexander Girard", 2001
*SFMOMA, "Alexander Girard: Vibrant Modern", 2006

Publications

*Pina, Leslie. "Alexander Girard Designs for Herman Miller", Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1998.
*Forde, Laura. "Modern Crafts No. 7", "Alexander Girard the Textures of Modernism and the Joys of Folk Art", Petit Grand Publishing, Inc., 2003.
*Grawe, Sam. "Alexander The Great", Dwell Magazine, Feb. 2008.
*"The Spirit of Folk Art: The Girard Collection at the Museum of International Folk Art" is a 276-page set of essays by Henry Glassie, which describe the content and importance of the Girard collection. The essays are complemented by black and white as well as color plates of collection objects on display at the Museum. For a full description of this book, see [http://www.internationalfolkart.org/exhibitions/publications2.html the MoIFA Publications page.]
*"Folk Art from the Global Village: The Girard Collection at the Museum of International Folk Art" is a 96-page set of essays by Jack Lenor Larsen and others, which describe the Girard collection and its origins. The book, which contains over 100 color plates of objects described in the essays, is currently out of print. For a full description of this book, see [http://www.worldfolkart.org/product.php?id=2214&cat_id=47&sub_id=293 the Museum of New Mexico Foundation's publications page.]

External links

* [http://www.maximodesign.com maXimo Design, Agent to the Estate of Alexander Girard]
* [http://www.internationalfolkart.org/about/girard.html Girard Wing]
* [http://www.lafondadelsol.net Girard's designs for La Fonda Del Sol]
* [http://www.www.braniffpages.com/1965/1965.html Girard at Braniff]
* [http://collections.walkerart.org/item/archive/199 Interview with Girard re his work at the Herman Miller Company]
* [http://www.dwell.com/peopleplaces/profiles/13509997.html Dwell Magazine Article]


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