Art Deco – or simply Deco – is a style of visual arts, architecture and design that we most recognise as reflecting the period of the 1920-1930s. Drawing on the bold geometric forms of Cubism and the Vienna Secession, and the bright colours of Fauvism whilst also incorporating or stylising architecture, design and art from the Far and Near East and South America, Deco influenced the design of buildings, furniture, jewellery, fashion, cars, cinemas, trains, ocean liners and everyday household objects from radios to ashtrays, table lamps, clocks – and even vacuum cleaners. Even today it is still associated with luxury, glamour, exuberance, and faith in social and technological progress.
However, whilst most readily identified with the decades immediately prior to World War 2, Deco actually arose in the years leading up to the First World War. It took its name from the term arts décoratifs, originally coined in the mid-1870s so that the designers of furniture, textiles, and other decoration in France a form of official status. By 1901, the Société des Artistes Décorateurs (Society of Decorative Artists) had formed, and decorative artists were given the same rights of authorship as painters and sculptors.
In 1912 the Société proposed a major international exhibition of art and design should be hosted in Paris. However, such was the scale of the event that the outbreak of the Great War interrupted proceedings, so it was not until 1925 that the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts) was held. Running for seven months, the exposition 15,000 exhibitors from twenty different countries, and it was visited by sixteen million people – and the term Art Deco came into popular, recognised use around the world.
Art Deco has also exerted a strong influence within Second Life, where – in keeping with its physical world namesake – it has been applied to buildings, vehicles, furnishings, lighting, decorative items and so on. One exponent of Art Deco is Melusina Parkin, who offers a range of Deco items through her store, the upper floor of which forms her personal gallery space. As a photographer, Melu is highly regarded within SL – and with good reason; her images are among some of the most narratively rich one can hope to witness, as I’ve commented upon on numerous occasions in this blog.
With her latest exhibition Art Deco Fragments, which opened on April 15th, Melu combines her unique perspective for photography with her love of Art Deco to offer a series of marvellous images that allow the stylistic richness of Deco to speak fully and freely. Using her trademark tight focus and angle, she presents elements of Deco (and also, one might say, touches of Streamline Moderne, the art form that grew out of Deco in the 1930s) in a manner that concentrates the eye on specific elements of buildings (use of geometry, glass, metal, lighting, and so on), that give Deco architecture that richness of look and exuberance of design we cannot fail to find attractive as we come across them in both the physical world in Second Life.
Accompanying the exhibition is the first volume of a four-book series Melusina is producing on the subject of Art Deco. As with Fragments, this first volume Art Deco: Building Details focuses on the details found within Deco architecture. Future volumes will look at building exteriors, interiors and the finer details found within Deco interior styling.
Dedicated to the memory of Sonatta Morales, another Second Life resident and Deco / Retro designer, Art Deco Fragments is both another engaging and a personal exhibition from Melusina.
- Melusina Parkin – Art Deco Fragments (Time Portal, rated General)