NOMA explores aluminum with ‘Atomic Number 13’ exhibition

Russel Wright (American, 1904–1976), Saturn punch service, c. 1935. Spun aluminum, lacquered wood handles. New Orleans Museum of Art, Museum Purchase, William McDonald Boles and Eva Carol Boles Fund, 2017.200.a-.o

Russel Wright (American, 1904–1976), Saturn punch service, c. 1935. Spun aluminum, lacquered wood handles. New Orleans Museum of Art, Museum Purchase, William McDonald Boles and Eva Carol Boles Fund, 2017.200.a-.o

NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans Museum of Art is currently staging Atomic Number Thirteen: Aluminum in 20th-Century Design. It opened on April 23 and will continue through April 17, 2022.

When chemists first successfully extracted aluminum from the earth in the mid-19th century, the raw element was as precious as gold. Today we take this ubiquitous material for granted, though aluminum allows for nearly every facet of modern life through its use in architecture, industry, and flight. This exhibition, drawn from NOMA’s permanent collection, explores the changing role of aluminum in 20th-century design.

Frantz Industries (Los Angeles, California) ‘Aero-art’ Service Cart for Douglas DC3 Aircraft, 1938 design. Aluminum, Bakelite, rubber tires. New Orleans Museum of Art, Gift of Dr. Ronald Swartz and Ellen Johnson, 2018.52

Frantz Industries (Los Angeles, California) ‘Aero-art’ Service Cart for Douglas DC3 Aircraft, 1938. Aluminum, Bakelite, rubber tires. New Orleans Museum of Art, Gift of Dr. Ronald Swartz and Ellen Johnson, 2018.52

Key pieces in the show include a striking spun aluminum Saturn punch service, created circa 1935 by Russel Wright; an Aero-art service cart by Frantz Industries, fashioned from aluminum and Bakelite and designed for use aboard Douglas DC3 aircraft; a Maximilian lounge chair, designed in 1958 by John Vesey; and a 1939 Margaret Bourke-White photograph of Louis Klinkscales, a worker at the Aluminum Company of America.

See the website for the New Orleans Museum of Art and see its dedicated page for Atomic Number Thirteen: Aluminum in 20th-Century Design.