The Eamesian Art of Picnicking
Charles and Ray Eames’ famous 1977 documentary Powers of Ten introduces the relative scale of the universe, opening with a one-meter overhead shot of a man and a woman enjoying a picnic in a park on the Chicago lakefront. The camera then zooms out based on a factor of ten, offering a wider and wider glance at the Earth and eventually the entire universe, before reducing inward at the same rate, eventually landing on just a single atom and its component quarks. A cult classic among middle school math teachers and amateur existentialists, the nine-minute film is noteworthy not only in its succinct summary of astronomical proportions, but also in that it highlights one of the Eames’ less frequently celebrated talents: Picnicking.
Whether it was an impromptu gathering in their Venice office courtyard or out in the not-so-wild parks across urban America, the pioneering duo used picnics as opportunities to gather while simultaneously experimenting with color, form, and texture, playfully pairing surfaces with servingware and ingredients to be enjoyed al fresco. In Powers of Ten, the couple relaxes on a patchwork of overlapping blankets and patterned throw pillows, with the food spread across lobed platters, wicker baskets, and wooden bowls, in lieu of your run-of-the-mill tupperware.
Taking inspiration from this design-oriented approach to entertaining, Mexico-city based artist duo Ananas Ananas staged an unconventional picnic for a HAY and Herman Miller collection preview in the backyard of Case Study House No. 8. The iconic mid century landmark in the Pacific Palisades conventionally known as the Eames House was designed and built by Charles and Ray Eames in 1949, and the couple lived there until their deaths in 1978 and 1988 respectively. According to Charles, the house was unselfconscious in its plan, expressing a “way-it-should-be-ness” specifically meeting its occupants’ needs. In much the same way, the Danish design house had reimagined classic Eames pieces for a new generation, using sustainable post-industrial recycled plastic and durable cast-glass suitable for outdoors.
Pieces from the first-of-its-kind collaboration served as supports for Ananas Ananas’ spread of Eames favorites, including deviled eggs with salmon roe, poached mini stone fruit salad, and a sculptural tower of sandwiches, while molded chairs in eight new colorways were set up across picnic blankets throughout the yard, where guests could gather for a nosh.