‘Fit for a King: The Merle Armitage Book of Food’ at LACMA

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LACMA’s ‘California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way’ exhibition opened at the beginning of this month. The study of midcentury modern design examines the work and influence of the state’s native designers and transplants from other parts of the country as well as from Europe.

Among its 300 objects, including furniture, ceramics and fashion, are examples of midcentury modern graphic design with large, bold and experimental typefaces. Featured in the exhibition is Merle Armitage’s Art Deco designed cookbook ‘Fit for a King: The Merle Armitage Book of Food.’ Armitage was a jack of many trades; in addition to being a theater impresario (he founded the Los Angeles Grand Opera Assn. and later managed the Philharmonic Auditorium), he was also an avant-garde book designer.

Published in 1939, the cookbook rejected standard hidebound rules of the field and used bold title spreads that served as poster-like introductions to Armitage’s texts. Featured recipes were from the leading cultural figures of the day, and from Armitage’s circle of artistic friends, including critic Lewis Mumford, designer Raymond Loewy and photographer Edward Weston. The book also features black-and-white portraits of vegetables, including a pepper, an artichoke (halved), kale (halved) and an eggplant, photographed by Weston.

The exhibition runs through June 3, 2012.

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-- Caitlin Keller

Bottom image: ‘Fit for a King: The Merle Armitage Book of Food.’ Credit: