Arches is from the first collection of murals Ilonka Karasz designed in 1948 for Katzenbach & Warren, the New York wallpaper firm for whom she designed almost exclusively. Like the majority of her murals it was printed in the blueprint process, her favorite reproduction process for murals as it captured all the nuances of her unique drawing style.
One thing I’ve noticed about Ilonka’s murals is that all of them seem to contain a door or portal, with some tactile or fascinating interior on the other side, inviting, even encouraging, the viewer to enter. This might not seem significant, but with most murals and scenic wallpapers the viewer is an outsider, merely being allowed to look in on this other world.
Arches creates a rather surreal environment, with a greater sense of depth than is generally scene in Ilonka’s wallpapers, who usually designs wallpapers to be more 2-dimensional. The large arches appear as ancient ruins and blend rather seamlessly into the environment. Looking through the arches one see’s old growth trees, birds flying, nesting, and foraging for food, while a variety of animals wander about. Plants even sprout in the crevices between the stones. While this appears to be an example of nature taking back from man, off to the left of the arches is an abode, with potted plants and baskets full of produce out front, and what appears to be a dog sleeping in the doorway. The design displays a brilliant use of positive and negative spaces which helps simplify the elements while also creating a very strong graphic.
Like most of Ilonka’s murals Arches was designed with some installation flexibility. The full panel measures 37 1/8 x 94 ¾ inches and could be installed as a single panel, or multiple panels could be installed end to end to continue the design.
This mural is currently on display at the Cooper Hewitt in Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection on view through April 28, 2018.