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Fractions

A work made of cotton, weft-float faced broken twill weave; screen printed with vat-dyes.

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  • A work made of cotton, weft-float faced broken twill weave; screen printed with vat-dyes.

Date:

1949

Artist:

Bernard Rudofsky (American, born Austria, 1905-1988)
Printed for Schiffer Prints (American, 20th century)

About this artwork

In 1941, the Austrian-born architect and engineer Bernard Rudofsky moved to New York City, and, without an American architecture license, he turned his attention to other avenues of design. In 1944, his famous exhibition Are Clothes Modern? opened at the Museum of Modern Art and in 1947, the catalogue for the exhibition included his extensive response to and musings on the title question. In the volume, Rudofsky went on at length about the ways in which clothes are indeed not modern, but rather “anachronistic, irrational and harmful.” Among his critiques of modern fashion was a criticism of the way in which fashion and tailoring abuse bodies as well as materials. To make this argument, he included a pattern from 1873, which, in an effort to maximize the paper on which it is printed, features a dizzying maze of lines differentiated through the use of different patterns made with standardized marks that include the letters “x” and “o” as well as the dash and asterisk. This overlapping confusion of intersecting symbols indicative of the irrationality of “the clothes we wear today” appears to have inspired Rudofsky to instantiate a sense of order, as he perceived it.

Two years later, in 1949, his designs for Schiffer Prints employed similar typographic symbols that regularly alternate to form a recognizable repeat. To produce these designs, Rudofsky relied on his trusty Olivetti typewriter, which he had purchased during a sojourn in Italy. Fractions features alternating rows of typewritten letters, numbers, and symbols. The subtle variations in the forms reinforce the discrepancies that occur when the metal slug of type at the end of the typewriter arm strikes the ribbon. In this way, Rudofsky reminds the viewer that the typewriter is an instrument for printing, fitting as he used it to make designs for printed textiles. His allusion to a fundamental method of manufacture fits within his larger philosophy, in which he proposed that nothing modern truly was as novel as it was made out to be. Moreover, as an advocate for individuality rather than conformity, these subtle differences surely appealed to his strongly held ideals.

Status

Currently Off View

Department

Textiles

Artists

Bernard Rudofsky , Schiffer Prints (Printer)

Title

Fractions

Place

United States (Object made in)

Date

Made 1949

Medium

Cotton, weft-float faced broken twill weave; screen printed with vat-dyes

Inscriptions

Printed on selvedge: "Fractions" by Bernard Rudofsky / Schiffer Prints / Vat Dye Hand Print

Dimensions

121.92 × 121.92 cm (48 × 48 in.)

Credit Line

Beatrice Swartchild Trust Endowment Fund

Reference Number

2019.788

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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