About the exhibition

Designer, artist, and educator Rebeca Méndez is the 17th guest curator of the Selects series, for which designers, artists, writers, and cultural figures are invited to mine and interpret the permanent collection. Winner of the 2012 National Design Award for Communication Design, Rebeca Méndez was born in Mexico and is the founder of Los Angeles-based Rebeca Méndez Design. For her installation, Méndez draws on the tragic history of Aztec ruler Moctezuma II’s private aviary to reflect on birds as sources of design inspiration and scientific study, as well as victims of climate change and human avarice. Selecting design objects from Cooper Hewitt’s permanent collection, bird specimens from the National Museum of Natural History, and rare books from the Smithsonian Libraries, Méndez evokes the tensions arising from humankind’s conflicting impulses towards nature. Animated with the sounds and images of bird life, Rebeca Méndez Selects invites visitors to consider how culture, design, technology, and the natural world have converged throughout history.



A selection of objects featured in the exhibition.

Exhibition Brochure

The cover of the exhibition brochure with the exhibition title set against an ombre pattern of gold, light blue, white, and gold bands of color. Click on the image to open the pdf of the brochure.


Rebeca Méndez Selects is made possible by the Marks Family Foundation Endowment Fund and received federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.

Image of Designer Rebeca Mendez teaches a master class during the 2018 National Design Awards Winners Salon
2018 NDA Winners’ Salon | Master Class with Rebeca MÉNDEZ
2012 National Design Award winner Rebeca Méndez leads a master class exploring the themes on view in Rebeca Méndez Selects, and her research and practice around ‘artistic fieldwork practice.’ Méndez also discusses the CounterForce Lab, a center she created within UCLA, School of Art and Architecture with a focus on art, design and environment.
Practicing at the Boundaries: Where Design, Science, and Cultures Meet
Written by Rebeca Méndez Since I can remember, I have always spent hours observing nature, asking “Why do living things and physical phenomena take the form they do? What are the essential mechanisms of nature?” I was born and raised in Mexico City by parents educated as chemical engineers. They taught me to see the...
Image features a tornado-like object composed of metal strips at center; text in blue above in a wavy line; text on either side, and photographs of buildings. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
In the Eye of the Tornado: Rethinking the Limits of Design Copy
Today’s Object of the Day celebrates the winners of Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Awards. Honoring lasting achievement in American design, the Awards take place annually during National Design Week, with festivities for all ages celebrating design creativity and innovation. Today’s blog post was originally published on March 29, 2018. As design director for her alma mater, Art Center...
Image features: A robe of dark blue silk with a deep wave border at the bottom and sleeve hems. Tapestry-woven design of eight large circular medallions showing five white cranes with red crests and blue cloud bands. Lined with light blue silk. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Flying Cranes
Today’s Object of the Day is on view in Rebeca Méndez Selects (October 5, 2018–June 16, 2019) This semi-formal court surcoat (ji fu gua吉服褂) would have been worn by the wife of an imperial prince, a high-ranking clan member, or a Manchu official. Surcoats often featured flowers or birds. Here, roundels feature five cranes flying...
Image features poster asymmetrically bisected into two separate color fields, featuring white egg on red-orange ground at right, with uneven black splotches gravitating towards (or emanating from) it; white ground at left, with black text at top left. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Hatching Good Design
Today’s Object of the Day is on view in Rebeca Méndez Selects (October 5, 2018–June 16, 2019) Produced by renowned American graphic designer Paul Rand, this poster announces the 1966 International Design Conference in Aspen (IDCA). Rand is known for his influential contributions to the advertising industry, including his logos for IBM, Westinghouse, ABC, and...
Fit for a Falcon
From the archives, an Object of the Day post on one of the works featured in Rebeca Méndez Selects.
Blossoms and Birds
From the archives, an Object of the Day post on one of the design works featured in Rebeca Méndez Selects.
Chainmail form made of silver, covered with overlapping rows of hammered, flattened feather-like steel nails; row of small, gold pod forms along inner edge; large clasp covered by roughly square panel of pale rose mother-of-pearl with gold fastenings.
No Breeze Will Ruffle These Feathers
From the archives, an Object of the Day post on one of the designs featured in Rebeca Méndez Selects.