PORSET, CLARA. Gerardo Estrada [introduction]: INVENTANDO UN MÉXICO MODERNO: EL DISEÑO DE CLARA PORSET | CLARA PORSET’S DESIGN: CREATING A MODERN MEXICO. Mexico City: Franz Mayer Museum, 2006.

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INVENTANDO UN MÉXICO MODERNO: EL DISEÑO DE CLARA PORSET
CLARA PORSET'S DESIGN: CREATING A MODERN MEXICO

Gerardo Estrada [introduction]

Gerardo Estrada [introduction] and Oscar Salinas Flores, Ana Elena Mallet and Alejandro Hernandez Glvez [essays]: INVENTANDO UN MÉXICO MODERNO: EL DISEÑO DE CLARA PORSET | CLARA PORSET'S DESIGN: CREATING A MODERN MEXICO. Mexico City: Franz Mayer Museum, 2006. First edition [limited to 2,000 copies]. Text in Spanish and English. Square quarto. Photo illustrated paper covered limp and yapped boards. Printed endpapers. 192 pp. 150 color and black and white illustrations. Interior unmarked and very clean. Out-of-print. Yapped edges faintly shelfworn, but a nearly fine copy of this rare catalog.

9.5 x 9.5 soft cover book with 192 pages and 150 color illustrations: While some of Clara Porset's furniture designs were intended for industrial manufacture and mass production, it's the ones inspired by elements of folk culture for which she is best known and that, perhaps, served her best. Porset's work has been associated with some of the most important architects of her time, including Barragn and Pani, but her artisanal projects kept her in close contact with craft workshops and studios, collaborating with craftsmen in varied disciplines to develop forms that harmonized elegantly with expressive natural materials. Porset became widely known in a nascent modern Mexico and other parts of the world thanks to the print media and to prominent commissions, as well as her own strategizing to find a market for her varied work and to see her name known—she diversified her professional relationships so that her designs would reach a wider spectrum of people and be seen in new settings by new audiences and potential clients. Clara Porset brings readers her life, her work and a bright moment in the modernization of Mexico.

Excerpted from the website for r-and-company: “Cuban-born furniture and interior designer Clara Porset (1895 – 1981)  is best known for modern designs inspired by the local traditions of Mexico, her adopted homeland. “Porset was educated in New York at Columbia University's School of Fine Arts, as well as in Paris, where she studied with the architect Henri Rapin and attended classes at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, the Sorbonne, and the Louvre. She traveled widely in Europe, and, in 1934, spent a formative summer at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Here, she took a course taught by Josef Albers (modeled closely upon the course he had taught at the Bauhaus school). Porset would maintain a lifelong friendship with Albers and his wife, Anni, and would remain indebted to the tenets of the Bauhaus throughout her career.

“Porset returned to Cuba in 1932, and began working professionally as an interior designer, designing for both private and public contexts. Always committed to education, she gave many lectures with the goal of educating the Cuban public about the principles of modern design. She also worked actively to promote her profession, arguing that the role of the interior or furniture designer was just as important as that of the architect.

“Porset quickly rose to prominence; however, her career was interrupted when her support for and participation in the Cuban resistance movement led to political exile. Porset ultimately settled in Mexico, where she would remain for most of the rest of her life. She (along with her husband, the painter and muralist Xavier Guerrero) became a part of a large and energetic group of creative people, all working towards defining what a modern, post-colonial Mexico would look like. Porset was fascinated and inspired by Mexico's craft traditions, and began looking to traditional forms in order to create designs that would meld modernity with local tradition. Indeed, she is perhaps best known for her variations on the butaque, a low, graceful chair with a long history in Mexico. In a similar vein, an ancient Mesoamerican sculpture inspired the look of her Totonaca chairs and sofas, considered landmarks of Mexican furniture design.

“While Porset was committed to fine craftsmanship, she was equally committed to the idea that well-designed furnishings could be made affordable. In the 1950s, she developed a highly successful range of furnishings for IRGSA (then Mexico's foremost manufacturer of furniture); the range would continue to be mass-produced for many years. Porset also designed interiors for Mexico City's first large-scale public housing project.

“The recipient of numerous awards and honors within Mexico, Porset also gained recognition abroad. In 1940 she won a prize in MoMA's Organic Design for Home Furnishing contest, and in 1946 Artek-Pascoe exhibited and sold her work in New York. Articles about Porset appeared in Arts & Architecture and the Los Angeles Times Home Magazine.”

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