Greta Magnusson Grossman was a household name in the 1930s European design world. She operated her own shop, Studio, in Stockholm, where she designed modern furniture, interiors, and eventually a much-publicized bassinet for Sweden’s Princess Birgitta. In 1940, Grossman immigrated to the US with her husband, where she would again make a name for herself. Grossman began her second act in California, where she designed home furnishings and served as an interior architecture consultant for the now-defunct Los Angeles-based furniture store Barker Brothers. She also designed several homes in the area and set up a Beverly Hills shop where she sold her Swedish-modern furniture, lamps, rugs, and accessories. Grossman’s furniture pieces for Glenn of California and lighting for Ralph O. Smith were pivotal in propelling forward the California modernism aesthetic. From June 26 to August 22, New York-based gallery R & Company’s White Street location pays tribute to Grossman in its new exhibit Modern Makes Sense.
“This exhibition is a great survey of [Grossman’s] early works in lighting and more iconic works from her time in the 1950s when she’s associated with the Museum of Modern Art,” says Michelle Jackson, the exhibit’s lead organizer and gallery archivist. The show sheds light on Grossman’s more humanistic approach to design. “She wasn’t someone who felt design should be all or nothing. She was an interesting proponent of livable modernism.”
On view are Grossman’s futuristic furniture pieces from her “62 Series” for Glenn of California, a chaise lounge designed for furniture company Sherman Bertram, angular lamps with their flexible arms and directional shades, an asymmetrical coffee table, and a series of dining chairs that were featured in an exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1952. The exhibit also takes a deeper dive into Grossman’s career and work behind the scenes. It incorporates the gallery’s extensive collection of her architectural and industrial design drawings, photographs, papers, and promotional materials (including business cards and letterhead)—many of which haven’t been on view since 2010 and were secured from Grossman’s family by R & Company co-founder and creative director Evan Snyderman.
“Modernism with a capital M has this association with trying to control the user and that wasn’t her approach,” Jackson says. “We’re trying to give a presentation that shows how one can live with these objects.”
Modern Makes Sense, June 26–August 22, R & Company, 64 White St., New York; r-and-company.com