• Ruth Adler Schnee: Modern Designs for Living
    Ian Gabriel Wilson
    Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfleld Hills
    Dec 14, 2019 to Mar 15, 2020
    Cranbrook Art Museum

Markley Residence, living room designed by Ruth Adler Schnee, Bloomfield Hills, MI, 1975. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives, The Edward and Ruth Adler Schnee Papers.

The retrospective exhibition presents the work of textile and interior designer Ruth Adler Schnee from her prolific seven-decade career, remedying the underrepresentation of her pivotal role in the development of the American midcentury modern interior in design history. Her textile patterns are interrogated both as wholly designed objects, valued for their ingenious use of material, technique, and design sensibility, and as tools in her self-styled space planning practice and architectural collaborations. Examples of her original textiles, archival drawings, photography, and assorted ephemera come together in the architectonic display to illuminate the wide-range of Adler Schnee’s explorations and influence. Through the exhibition and an accompanying monograph, this project situates Adler Schnee’s practice within her professional network of peers and collaborators, while unraveling her rigorous, iterative design processes. Strategies for intuitive, organic design spanned her textile production, interior architectural commissions, and her modern design shop and consulting business, and endeavored for a continuously emergent relationship between form and function.

Ruth Adler Schnee studied with Walter Gropius at Harvard before attending the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where she received her BFA degree. She worked in New York with industrial designer Raymond Loewy before returning to Michigan to study with Eliel Saarinen and received her master’s degree from Cranbrook in 1946. She launched a textile business with her husband, Edward Schnee, producing original screenprinted designs. Adler Schnee’s textile designs received national awards in 1947, 1948, 1957, and 1958. She collaborated with numerous modern architects on interior designs, including Eero Saarinen, Buckminster Fuller, and Minoru Yamasaki. In the 1990s her designs were reissued by Unika Vaev, translated into woven fabrics by Anzea, and adapted by Knoll Textiles in 2012. She has received the Kresge Eminent Artist Award, the Women in the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award, and American Institute of Architects’ International Color Award, among others, and is the subject of the documentary, The Radiant Sun.

Ian Gabriel Wilson is the Jeanne and Ralph Graham Collections Fellow at Cranbrook Art Museum and was previously at the journal ARTMargins. He was awarded a Graduate Curatorial Fellowship by the Institute for Curatorial Research and Practice in 2016.

Andrew Blauvelt is director of Cranbrook Art Museum, curator-at-large for the Museum of Arts and Design, and former senior curator of architecture and design at the Walker Art Center.

Founded in 1904, Cranbrook’s mission is to provide extraordinary education, to encourage creativity and innovation, and to value learners of all ages and backgrounds. Cranbrook develops people who will live with purpose and integrity, create with passion, explore with curiosity, and strive for excellence.