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Enchanting Modern: Ilonka Karasz, 1896-1981


Enchanting Modern: Ilonka Karasz, 1896-1981 will be on view at the Georgia Museum of Art November 16 through February 8, 2003.

Ilonka Karasz, a native of Hungary, moved to the United States in 1913 and settled in New York's Greenwich Village. Karasz quickly established herself as one of the foremost promoters and practitioners of modern design in America. Karasz's career was lengthy and multi-faceted and quickly gained the attention of critics as well as other artists because of her distinctive style. Karasz's career spanned over six decades and encompassed a variety of media including graphic and fine art, as well as textile, furniture, silver, ceramic, and wallpaper design. This first museum exhibition to focus on Karasz will feature over 100 examples of her work from all parts of her career, and will trace the life of an enchanting modern. (right: Ilonka Karasz, (American, b. Hungary 1896-1981), original cover design for The New Yorker, featured October 5, 1940, gouache or casein on illustration board, 16 1/8 x 11 5/8 inches, Colleection of the Portas Family)

Paintings, prints and drawings created in Karasz's early years in Greenwich Village will represent the energy and diversity of life in the village and reveal the influence of her Hungarian training and European-born peers. Photographs by celebrity portraitist Nickolas Muray document her award-winning, machine-printed silks and reveal her distinctive personality.

Best known for her work with The New Yorker, Karasz also created illustrations for book jackets and magazine covers. Twelve of the 186 original cover designs for The New Yorker will be featured in the exhibition, tracing the development of her style and presenting charming vignettes from her daily life -- places where she lived, shopped and vacationed.

During the late1920s and 1930s, Karasz devoted significant efforts towards the design and promotion of modern decorative arts, which will be represented in the exhibition through a variety of machine-made and hand-made objects, including textiles, silver, ceramics, and furniture, as well as related drawings and vintage photographs of room installations.

From the 1940s through the 1960s, Karasz worked extensively as a wallpaper designer, and in 1950 the periodical Portfolio described her as "the country's leading wallpaper artist." As a wallpaper designer, she emphasized the two-dimensional nature of wall coverings, drew inspiration from a variety of sources, including Asian art, and experimented with innovative methods of transferring designs to wallpaper. The exhibition will include a selection of wallpapers that illustrate the range of her subjects and decorative techniques.

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