The San Diego based mid-century designer-craftsman Jack Rogers Hopkins (1920-2006) was a leading figure in the California studio design movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
The post-war studio movement was a period in which American furniture was becoming more idiosyncratic, sculptural, and free form. Hopkins’ approach to design was both radical and metaphysical. An influential teacher, he instilled an artistic approach that encouraged an artists’ ability to destroy their own work. Hopkins felt that the art process, indeed the idea itself, was the most important part of an artwork. He held that, “Any artist who can’t destroy his own work, shouldn’t be an artist.” That Hopkins destroyed his own masterwork, the massive sculptural environmental piece of undulating wood “The Womb Room (1971)” is an intriguing part of his story and is central to both the Hopkins book and the film.
With his radical approach, along with the impressive body of work he left behind, Hopkins is considered one of the last important untold stories of the West Coast SPOTLIGHT ON PALM SPRINGS MODERNISM WEEK 2023: The forgotten story of Mid-Century Designer-Craftsman Jack Rogers Hopkins now being told post-WWII design era. In the larger story of important American 20th Century makers, he is considered one the West Coast’s most original and influential makers.
In 2018, Jack Hopkins’ widow Esther lost the family home in Alpine, California, near San Diego, to wildfire. The entire contents of the house, with Hopkins’ own furniture, personal jewelry, sculptures, paintings, tools, and furniture templates were all destroyed. Thankfully, the editors of the 2020 Hopkins book maintained the artist’s sketchbooks, photographs, slides, a group of jewelry, a few tools, and templates while working on the book/exhibit. Without these materials, the book, film, and upcoming exhibit could not have been realized.
Palm Springs Modernism Week 2023 will feature the premiere of a documentary film on Hopkins, “Jack Rogers Hopkins: Mid-Century Design Maverick.” The 20-minute short film will screen as a larger event on Hopkins and his legacy to be held at the Annenberg Theatre, Palm Springs Art Museum on Tuesday, February 21, 2023 at 3:00pm. The event will include a Any artist that can’t destroy their own work shouldn’t be an artist. – Jack Rogers Hopkins Q+A with the co-authors of the Hopkins book: Jeffrey Head, Jo Lauria, Glenn Adamson, and David Hampton.
The film is a companion piece to the 2020 book “Jack Rogers Hopkins: California Design Maverick” which features rare historical images, Hopkins family photos and insightful original essays on the life and work of an important West Coast designer-maker. The book and the film together will, in turn, inform an upcoming 2024 exhibit featuring a small collection of rare and important works by the late San Diego designer-craftsman. The exhibit opens in the Spring of 2024 at the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts Jacobs Education Center Gallery in Rancho Cucamonga, California.
Katie Nartonis is a curator, writer, filmmaker and 20th century design specialist. Her documentary film, “In Tandem: The Life and work of Jerome and Evelyn Ackerman” screened at 2020 Palm Springs Modernism Week.