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Modernist ObjectsLiterature, Art, Culture$
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Noëlle Cuny and Xavier Kalck

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781949979503

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781949979503.001.0001

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The Furniture of Alter-Modernism

The Furniture of Alter-Modernism

Eileen Gray’s and Le Corbusier’s Two Orientalisms

(p.189) Chapter Ten The Furniture of Alter-Modernism
Modernist Objects

Maurizia Boscagli

Liverpool University Press

Eileen Gray’s choice to be her own woman, as well as her eclectic aesthetic, not attached to any particular school and, in fact, queering different design and architectural styles, might account for her relative obscurity after the 1930s. Gray’s work points to a different understanding of the modern, what I call here alter-modernism. This is an aesthetic in open contrast with the technological, productivist, and fast-paced view of modernity that lies at the core, even today, of the dominant narrative of modernism. To the accelerated and streamlined style of which Le Corbusier was one of the chief representatives, with its minimalism organized according to the principles of function, order, hygiene, heroic verticality, and visual exposure, Gray designed objects and spaces for the subjects excluded by the heroic heteromasculinity of the engineer. This essay pits the orientalizing, obsessive form of male specularity against another type, and use of, orientalism, that of the fin de siècle male aesthete, who turns to the ornamentation and decadence associated with “the Orient” in order to signal his homosexuality, in a coded aestheticism which Gray reworks in the two projects discussed here, La Pirogue and E. 1027.

Keywords:   Eileen Gray, Le Corbusier, orientalism, specularity, ornamentation, alter-modernism, architecture, furniture design

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