Rapson's whimsical world

  • Article by: KIM PALMER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 1, 2010 - 2:57 PM

Little-seen furniture drawings by Minnesota's renowned modernist architect will be featured in a new exhibit.

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Architect Ralph Rapson

Photo: Judy Griesedieck, Star Tribune file

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Architect Ralph Rapson was famous for his big buildings, such as the original Guthrie Theater and Cedar Square West.

But he also designed hundreds of pieces on a small, personal scale: lamps, dishes, flatware, fabrics and especially furniture.

"He was unbelievably prolific," said his son Toby Rapson, president/owner of Rapson Architects, Minneapolis. The elder Rapson's drawings were "playful and whimsical," Toby said, and often included people, sketched in casual use, which was unusual. "They were interesting -- that's what draws people to them."

Some of the drawings date back to the 1930s, and many have languished in archival files for years, said Toby. Now many of those rarely seen drawings will be put on display, and some will be offered for sale, with a percentage donated to the Ralph Rapson Traveling Study Fellowship at the Minnesota Architectural Foundation.

The two-day exhibit, "The Furniture Design of Ralph Rapson," also will serve as the reintroduction event for the new version of the Ralph Rapson Solid Wood Rapid Rocker, which has been built from Rapson's original drawings. The exhibit will include a newly refurbished Knoll Rapson Rocker, circa 1946. Also for sale will be two hand-built rockers signed by Ralph Rapson prior to his death in 2008.

Fans of mid-century modern design can see some of its history in the drawings, which illustrate Rapson's visionary use of materials such as metals and plywood. A few of the drawings have been featured in other exhibits and/or donated to silent auctions to benefit the Minnesota Architectural Foundation, Toby Rapson said. "But nobody really has seen the full collection."

Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784

  • THE FURNITURE DESIGN OF RALPH RAPSON

    What: Exhibit and sale featuring original drawings by architect Ralph Rapson and the reintroduction of his Rapson Rapid Rocker.

    When: Opening reception 5-11 p.m. Fri.; exhibit/sale continues 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sat.

    Where: 520 Selby Av., St. Paul.

    Tickets: Free.

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