2016 Phil Patton Memorial Lecture: Russell Flinchum, “Women and Cars”
In this lecture in honor of late SVA faculty member Phil Patton, an internationally-recognized design critic whose fascination with cars formed a substantial part of his written output, Flinchum will trace the history of the stylistic development of the automobile and the role of female designers in converting the horseless carriage into the object de luxe of the 1920s. His investigation will focus on the concours d’elegance, often featuring couture clothing next to bespoke automobiles, and the popularization of “good taste” in the post-war period dominated by the “GM System” under Harley Earl. Earl, the first top executive for design at any major corporation, was the creator in the 1950s of the “Damsels of Design,” who usually constitute the starting point of discussion on how women contributed to the creation of the modern automobile.
Russell Flinchum is associate professor of Graphic Design, Industrial Design, and Art+Design in the College of Design at North Carolina State University. Previously, Flinchum was the archivist of the Century Association Archives Foundation, where he curated the traveling exhibition “Buckminster Fuller/Shoji Sadao.” A founding faculty member of the School of Arts MFA in Design Criticism, he taught design history at SVA through 2013. Flinchum was the first Peter Krueger/Christie’s Fellow at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, where he curated the 1997 exhibition “Henry Dreyfuss: Directing Design.” He is author of the award-winning book Henry Dreyfuss, Industrial Designer: The Man in the Brown Suit (1997) and his most recent book, American Design, was published by The Museum of Modern Art and 5 Continents in 2008.