Above: Sculpted birds designed and made by Emil Milan in the 1960’s. Photo: Emil Milan Research Project
The Mid-Century designer craftsman Emil Milan described his work as functional sculpture. His carved wooden objects for the home are works of art that represent the influence of Modern Design along with a reverence for wood and the skills necessary to shape it. This landmark exhibition, being held nearly thirty years after his death, will introduce new information about, and insight into, the career of this important, yet often overlooked, maker. For the first time, Milan’s work will be shown alongside pieces created by those whom he taught and influenced.
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Milan showed artistic promise from an early age and, after serving in the military during World War II, used his G.I. Bill funds to enroll at the Art Students League in New York City. Studying sculpture among some of the most important artists of the post war period, Milan combined the artistic energy of Modern Art with his exceptional wood carving skills and a desire to make art for everyday life.
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Milan was at the forefront of mid century modern design with the world’s leading artists and designers of the times. His work distils the very essence of modern design as applied to functional wares in wood. He contributed to the rise of the studio craft movement in America following WWII. He also played a part in the emergence and growth of the American Craft Council, regional craft organizations including New Jersey Designer Craftsmen and Craftsmen of the Endless Mountains, and Peters Valley School of Craft. His work also helped shape the American craft collection of the Smithsonian Institution, and what is now the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City.
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