THE FABRIC OF OUR HOMES

Byline: Elaine Glusac

From “Gone With The Wind” to “The Sound of Music,” fabrics — especially curtains — have inspired some of the most cinematic interiors.
The Art Institute of Chicago offers some lively bolts in its exhibition, “Rooted in Chicago: 50 Years of Textile Design Traditions.” It runs through July 27.
The show focuses on the “Chicago Five,” five fabric design studios that got their start in Chicago in the 1940s and were launched by graduates of the School of the Art Institute and The New Bauhaus.
The post-World War II building boom in America was a boon to textile designers.
“There was a need for inexpensive fabrics that could be used in interiors. The buildings were streamlined; you couldn’t use Renaissance velvets in them,” explained Christa Thurman, curator of the Art Institute’s textile department and the creator of the exhibition.
Textile designers caught the modernist spirit: Angelo Testa created linear and geometric designs in fabrics — some were even used for clothing. Ben Rose’s graphic esthetic turned printed textiles into a forest of stark trees in “Groves” and revealed a sense of humor in the Eiffel-Tower-turns-giraffe “Girafters.”
Elenhank Designers printed an abstract city street map on fabric adorning TWA ticket counters at O’Hare Airport.
Weavers like Robert Sailors and partners Else Regensteiner and Julia McVicker incorporated manmade materials that made them avant-garde.
In the catalog that accompanies the exhibition, Thurman wrote, “The output of these five firms shows how much Chicago and the Midwest contributed to the field of national and international textile design.”

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