While working with Le Corbusier and his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret, for 10 years, Perriand advanced her vision of modern living.
Perriand’s connection with the Communist Party went beyond furniture1. Her 16-meter-long (over 50 feet) photographic mural “Poverty-Stricken Paris,” created for the Salon des Arts Ménagers in 1936, stretches across one of the gallery’s walls. Its collage of multicolored text and black and white images moves from criticizing the French government’s urban planning, Paris’s unsanitary living conditions, infant mortality rates, environmental problems, and the unfair treatment of women, to the possibility of a better future. Photos of wailing children, farming machinery, and hopeful crowds are overlaid with mottos, such as “unity is strength” and “liberate the country’s natural and cultural riches for the benefit of all.”
More of Perriand’s black and white photographs are displayed nearby. These are spectacular abstract, otherworldly close-ups of bones, skulls, flint, driftwood, drain pipes, crushed springs, and scrap metal.
- 1. In the 1930s, Perriand turned to the seemingly haphazard geometry of nature for inspiration. Instead of metal and industrial materials, she used wood, woven fabrics, and cane. Her table tops were often fanned or curved and the table legs splayed so that anyone sitting at the end wouldn’t feel constricted. In 1938, for the office of Jean-Richard Bloch, editor of the Communist newspaper Ce Soir, she paired her swivel armchair from 1927 with a bespoke semi-circular “Boomerang” desk made from thick, rounded-off pieces of wood; this design allowed Bloch to orient himself toward several staff members gathered around him. Suspended underneath the desk, on one side, is a teal filing cabinet, and on the other, a small wooden cupboard for Bloch’s telephone so that nothing would clutter the expansive sweep of the desktop.