Have you been known to hoard things like paper napkins? I wouldn’t think I would, but actually, since 2016 I’ve had four unopened packets of Alexander Girard paper napkins in my cupboard – unused souvenirs from my visit to Vitra Design Museum in 2016 when I got to see the Alexander Girard retrospective, A Designer’s Universe (now on again at the Museum of International Folk Art in Sante Fe).
The napkins are re-issues of a couple of the 80-odd sunshine motifs that Girard made in the early 1960’s, when designing the Latin American-themed restaurant La Fonda Del Sol.
A large area of the retrospective was devoted to this project because it was a HUGE project, with Girard handling the concept, architecture, furniture, layout, branding, signage, designing everything, all the way through to waitstaff uniforms, glassware, plates, furniture, salt shakers, matchbooks, menus, sugarcubes and, yes, napkins.
The images below show La Fonda del Sol to be a lively, exuberant place, where pre-Colombian artifacts and folk art mix with modern chairs (co-designed with the Eames’s), and bold, colourful typeface covering the walls.
There’s something about this abundance of sunshines – inspired by Girard’s massive personal collection of folk art – that is immensely happy and optimistic. It’s actually quite infectious! And, as the exhibition catalogue puts it:
“We can preserve evidence of the past for its incentive to the present,
but not as a pattern for sentimental imitation, but as a nourishment
for the creative spirit in the present, so that we too
may evolve customs and shape objects of equivalent value”
If you’re in the US and able to get to the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe, don’t miss Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe, on until October 2019.