After eight visits to Chicago’s NeoCon, I have a confession to make: I have a thing for Maharam, the New York-based, fourth-generation, family-run textile company. It’s true. Each year, I put off visiting the Maharam showroom until late on Monday, as a reward for a full, frenzied day of reporting. I know I’ll fall in love all over again with its incomparable offerings, ranging from re-editions of enduring designs of the 20th-century’s most notable visionaries to collaborations among the Maharam Design Studio and the most adventurous of today’s designers; along with the latest Maharam Digital Projects, a growing portfolio of digitally printed wall installations.
This year, an assemblage of 11 different Digital Projects formed two flowing ribbons of imagery across the length of opposing showroom walls. My favourite is Type, by New York artist Polly Apfelbaum. In this sprightly composition, 100+ dingbats are arranged in a graduation based on a turn-of-the-century palette from Dutch art supply manufacturer Talens.
In the showroom proper, floating display structures (by New York- and London-based artist Liam Gillick) moved the new textiles away from the wall, “calling attention to characteristics that are often lost when textiles are perceived as flat surfaces.” And what textiles, among them Hella Jongerius’s homespun Hours, its spun woolen yarns reflecting the Dutch designer’s interest in atmospheric shifts over the course of a day; the cheeky Deconstructed Rose, a traditional floral needlepoint transformed through a modern, pixilated scale; and “classic with a twist” Point by Paul Smith, the British fashion designer, which features dense rayon yarns in warp and weft secured by a fine nylon border. A feast for the eye; a tactile experience.
Which brings me to Maharam’s latest Textile of the 20th Century, Palio by Alexander Girard. In his years as art director of Herman Miller’s Textile Division (from its formation in 1952 through the ’60s), Girard created more than 300 patterns to suit the company’s mid-century furniture. Palio’s motifs, colours and name are drawn form the famous bareback horserace held semi-annually in Siena, Italy. The eight motifs – including combs, fringes, flames, spikes, checkerboards and coronets – are based on the emblematic banners and flags of Siena’s city districts. The re-edition, in which all eight motifs are collected as stripes, seems the very essence of joyful celebration.
Until next year, then: Maharam, I salute you.