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August 11, 2009

While airport terminals aren't necessarily known as venues for stellar art exhibits, it's always a nice surprise to find some visual stimulation while floating down the conveyor belt in a travel-prepped daze. Currently, there’s an excellent Russel Wright exhibit in SFO’s United Terminal called Wright at Home: Modern Lifestyle Design 1930-1965, which is guaranteed to please traveling enthusiasts of mid-century style, though not necessarily guaranteed to prevent flight delays or lost baggage.

The American Modern collection, manufactured by Steubenville Pottery. This was the line that brought casual dining to the tables of families across America.

The American Modern collection, manufactured by Steubenville Pottery. This was the line that brought casual dining to the tables of families across America.

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The classic American Modern pitcher.

The classic American Modern pitcher.

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The Iroquois True China dinnerware guarantee promised to replace your pieces for free if they chipped or broke. Russel and Mary would go do demonstrations themselves, spilling baskets of dishes on the floor to prove their mettle.

The Iroquois True China dinnerware guarantee promised to replace your pieces for free if they chipped or broke. Russel and Mary would go do demonstrations themselves, spilling baskets of dishes on the floor to prove their mettle.

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Decorative Motifs on Sterling Restaurant China. The designs and illustrations themselves were not Russel’s, but he incorporated them onto his pieces. Andy Warhol was a fan; the yellow plate is from his personal collection.

Decorative Motifs on Sterling Restaurant China. The designs and illustrations themselves were not Russel’s, but he incorporated them onto his pieces. Andy Warhol was a fan; the yellow plate is from his personal collection.

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Museum staff at SFO put together this dining cart based on the specifications from the original DIY guide by Russel Wright, written for people to be able to fabricate their own furniture at home.

Museum staff at SFO put together this dining cart based on the specifications from the original DIY guide by Russel Wright, written for people to be able to fabricate their own furniture at home.

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From the Iroquois Casual Dinnerware collection, a double-duty design that could be used as a wine carafe or vase. This is the only known piece in this shape, color, and pattern.

From the Iroquois Casual Dinnerware collection, a double-duty design that could be used as a wine carafe or vase. This is the only known piece in this shape, color, and pattern.

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Bauer Art Pottery.

Bauer Art Pottery.

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Accessories from the Oceana Wood Line, known for their organic shapes and natural form.

Accessories from the Oceana Wood Line, known for their organic shapes and natural form.

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A pitcher from the Spun Aluminum Group, one of Russel's first mass market successes.

A pitcher from the Spun Aluminum Group, one of Russel's first mass market successes.

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Asian-inspired gold-leaf platters.

Asian-inspired gold-leaf platters.

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General Electric produced this clock.

General Electric produced this clock.

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The American Modern collection, manufactured by Steubenville Pottery. This was the line that brought casual dining to the tables of families across America.

The American Modern collection, manufactured by Steubenville Pottery. This was the line that brought casual dining to the tables of families across America.

Wright was a mid-century industrial designer and dinnerware pioneer who helped bring Modernism to America’s kitchens and dining rooms. He and his wife, Mary, wrote “The Guide to Easier Living” in 1950, which outlined their ideas on how to keep your living space in comfortable order. The show runs through October, so if you find yourself with time to spare in Terminal 3, take a look at all the fantastic pieces in the collection.

It’s also absolutely worthwhile to keep your eye out for upcoming exhibitions at SFO, whose dedicated San Francisco Airport Museums—the first in an airport accredited by the American Association of Museums—feature almost twenty galleries throughout the terminals.

(I’d like to extend a special thank you to the show’s curator, McKinley Williams, and the Assistant Curator of Exhibitions for the SF Airport Museums, Nicole Mullen, for the tour!).

See Related: Russel Wright Melamine Dinnerware

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