Though not as iconic as Alvar Aalto nor as influential as Raymond Loewy, Franz Josef Gerhardt (1898-1983) left his unmistakable mark on the art of industrial design in the twentieth century. One critic wrote of his work: "Gerhardt is so far ahead of his time that time actually bends back on itself, creating a black hole vortex so powerful that even aesthetics are unable to escape it's gravitational force." Ignored by his contemporaries, scorned by critics, Franz Josef "Fritz" Gerhardt remains one of the most original and controversial artists of the modern era.
The Melty Couch
Inspired by Salvador Dali, the Melty Couch was designed for the Halsworth Furniture Co. in 1956. Upon first seeing the prototype, company president Winston Halsworth III is said to have chased Gerhardt from his office with a loaded pistol. The Melty was never placed into production.
The Scary Refrigerator
In 1936 Gerhardt was commissioned to design a refrigerator for General Electric (at that time known as The Newfangled Electricity Tarnation Co.) His original concept featured sleek deco lines and stark utilitarian simplicity (below right).
Before submitting his work to GE executives, Gerhardt was inspired by a "powerful dream" to modify his design (below left).
When GE suits balked at the submission he called them "a bunch of dumb whores" and confidently averred that "in the future, all refrigerators will be scary!"
Designed as the embodiment of simplicity, the Ready-O was an AM radio with no tuner, volume or other controls save for an on/off toggle switch. Perhaps because Gerhardt had a flawed understanding of radio frequency (RF) transmission, practically all of the models produced played only annoying static at maximum volume. Despite its revolutionary design characteristics the Ready-O was not a commercial success.
The Time Stain
The Time Stain electric clock is a starkly modernist piece that, instead of simply ringing, spouts a thick oily substance up to five feet high each hour. Only a few hundred Time Stains were ever produced before being discontinued due to lagging demand.
The Flying Titty Bus
Considered by many to be Gerhardt's most challenging creation, the Flying Titty Bus also ranks among the most controversial. Despite being told by aeronautics engineers that his design would fly "when pigs do", the petulant artist insisted that "every other form of transportation (would) soon be eclipsed" by titty bus air travel.
Tags: industrial design, aesthetics, art, architecture, flying titty bus
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