Artist-designers Evelyn and Jerome Ackerman, Culver City residents for more than 50 years, brought beautiful, yet affordable, home accessories to a rapidly expanding post-World War II California population. With their talents in decorative art and design, the couple helped to shape the phenomenon that came to be known as “Mid-Century California Modernism.” The Ackermans’ unique vision and more than 50-year design partnership, from the early 1950s to the 1990s, will be celebrated in an exhibition at the Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM). A Marriage of Craft and Design: The Work of Evelyn and Jerome Ackerman opened Sunday, Jan. 23.
Evelyn, born in 1924, and Jerome, born in 1920, adopted the German Bauhaus design school philosophy of integrating fine art, craftsmanship and industrial practices, putting the applied arts on an equal level with the fine arts. While many of their artist-craftsmen peers became known for working in a
single medium or style, the Ackermans’ creative expression was remarkable for its diversity of stylistic expressions, techniques and materials.
These two creative individuals branched out from their early studio background into a broader, cross-disciplinary approach to design. Jerome, who holds a master’s degree in ceramics, brought an interest in experimenting with new materials and production methods, as well as marketing savvy. At the same time, Evelyn’s fine art training contributed a talent for composition, expert draftsmanship and an unerring eye for line and color.
After making their own westward journey from Detroit, the couple opened a design studio in Los Angeles in 1953, called JENEV (a combination of their first names) and then ERA Industries in 1958. As design partners, the Ackerman’s created beautiful and reasonably priced home accessories, furniture and architectural elements in mediums as diverse as textiles, ceramics, wood, mosaic and metal. They frequently offered both cool (blues and greens) and warm (reds and oranges) color schemes so that their work would complement any decorative palette. In addition to producing affordable lines for the home and office, the Ackermans also produced one-of-a-kind custom pieces for architects and interior designers.
“Embraced by the design community in post-war Los Angeles, the Ackermans provided well-designed objects at affordable prices through extraordinary talent and hard work, without compromising their core Bauhaus values,” notes Dale Carolyn Gluckman, co-curator.
The Ackermans’ creative expression was rewarded with the rare honor of being included in every
prestigious California Design exhibition between 1954 and 1976. Over the years, the Ackermans have
been the subject of many articles in the local and national press, and their works are in significant public
and private collections. Recently, the couple was honored with Distinguished Alumni awards from both
Wayne State and Alfred universities.
Although ERA Industries is no longer active, the Ackerman’s aesthetic lives on. Through their
collaboration, they blended fine art, craft, folk art and modern design into their timely works.
“I was impressed at how fluidly they moved from the language of geometry and minimal abstraction - a modernist aesthetic - to a vernacular vocabulary that bordered on folk art,” says co-curator Jo Lauria.
The exhibit runs through May 8, 2011. The Craft and Folk Museum is at 5814 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (323) 937-4230 or go to cafam.org.