September 11, 2015 at 10:45am
Kathryn Swift '17

Bronze Man Books collaboration with MU grad leads to Iannelli book, art exhibit

Perkinson Art Gallery

Alfonso Iannelli's Everyday Modern Exhibition at Perkinson Art Gallery in Kirkland Fine Arts Center started off with a bang on Aug. 29. The exhibit highlighted Iannelli's sculptures and designs that focused on giving functional artistic Modernism to everyday items like coffee makers, blenders, ashtrays, radios and more.

Iannelli was gifted in many mediums such as painting and designing, but he started out as a sculptor. His background in sculpting helped impact his industrial designs. One example of this is the small art deco on the sides of his famous coffee maker which came out in 1938. The shape of the coffee maker comes from his sculpture background as well. All of Iannelli's designs, whether they are commercial or industrial, have the look of being the product of an artist.

Another big success for Iannelli Studios is their radios. Iannelli was fascinated and determined to take on the challenge of creating an artistic form for radios. Because of Iannelli Studios, the home radio was proudly shown in living rooms. The descriptions at the exhibit showed Iannelli Studios' designs for home radios, including a see-through model which exposed the glowing tubes and circuitry within the radio cabinetry.

Bronze Man BooksWhat led to this exhibit was the publication of the book "Everyday Modern: The Industrial Design of Alfonso Iannelli." This publication was done through Bronze Man Books, which is a student-run operated press at Millikin University. The designer and illustrator for the book was 1997 Millikin alumnus Eric O'Malley. Before the book was even in production, O'Malley was asked by Ed Walker, Millikin associate professor of art, to come and give a presentation on designing books.

O'Malley said, "When the Mueller Company heard I was coming to present it sparked the continuation of a conversation on creating a book focusing on the designs of Iannelli. This sprouted the project on working with Bronze Man and creating the exhibit."

O'Malley was one of the first students to participate in Bronze Man Books, and still uses the knowledge from the business in his work.

Part of what makes the Alfonso Iannelli exhibit unique is that it's the first show to focus on designs that are industrial. The exhibition also contains one of the largest amounts of original work ever seen at an Iannelli show.

O'Malley said, "What makes this event even more special is that it doesn't just focus on Iannelli's own designs. People can see interesting combinations of fine art and industrial designs while also looking at where large companies crossed with Iannelli's designs."

Through the years, Iannelli Studios worked with multiple companies to create unique products. One example of this is when Iannelli Studios designed soaps and packaging for the Bauer and Black Company in the 1920s. Other large companies Iannelli worked with include Wahl Eversharp, Oster Appliances and Sears Roebuck. An interesting crossover between Iannelli Studios and large companies occurred in 1934 when Iannelli designed souvenir ashtrays that were sold at the Chicago World's Fair in the Haeger Potteries pavilion.

With this phenomenal exhibition and the collaboration with Bronze Man Books starting off the academic year, it will be exciting to see what comes next for Perkinson Art Gallery and Bronze Man Books.

Click here to view a story from WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" featuring author David Jameson and Chicago Historian Tim Samuelson, who worked closely with Millikin faculty and students to produce the book and install the art exhibition of Iannelli's work in Perkinson Art Gallery.