When he was in his mid-teens, his family relocated again, but he decided to stay in Detroit to finish his studies. During that time, he worked part time for the Chrysler Corporation, which he considered a great education in manufacturing products.
Because of his excellenet performance at Cass Tech, he received a full scholarship to the School of Art and Design at Pratt Institute in New York. While touring Pratt, George Nelson noticed one of Pollock's wire sculptures and was impressed with it. Pollock took the sculpture to Nelson's studio and presented it to the designer as a gift, telling Nelson that he would like to work for him when he graduated.
However, after graduating, Pollock was drafted into the U. S. Army, where he was chosen to be the art director of the Infantry Magazine. He also taught art classes at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Upon returning to New York, Pollock took a job with Donald Deskey, the well-known designer of the Radio City Music Hall. He soon had an opportunity to join the George Nelson Office, where he perfected the art of swaging, a technique for bending cold metal which he had started developing while still a student. Although Nelson was initially given credit for the Swag Leg Collection for Herman Miller, he eventually acknowledged Pollock as the designer.
After working for Nelson, Pollock opened his own studio in Brooklyn. Because of the success of the Swag Leg Collection, Florence Knoll began became interested in Pollock's designs and began a business relationship with him...$20 a month for rent and a small development allowance to continue working on new products. His first design for Knoll was the 657 Sling Chair. His most famous design was the Pollock Chair, released by Knoll in 1965 and still produced today.
When Florence Knoll retired in 1965, Pollock went to Europe, where he spent many years skiing, sculpting and painting. In 1982 he introduced the Penelope Chair for the Italian company Castelli. It was a major breakthrough, because it was one of the first passively ergonomic chairs produced with simple parts.
Pollock's designs were characterized by continuous curved lines, functionality and affordability. He received the IBD Bronze Medal Award, the Dutch Institution for Industrial Design award and the Pratt Institute's Excellence by Design award. His work is exhibited in many museums worldwide.
Pollock had been diagnosed in the 1950s as having bipolar disorder but had continued his design work. However, when a chair he had designed for Olivetti was never produced because of the company's financial problems, he retired from industrial design and shifted his focus to painting and sculpting.
In 2010 Jerry Helling, president of Bernhardt Design decided he wanted to meet Pollock and find out about his life, because the Pollock Chair was one of Helling's favorite designs. He found a list of 30 Charles Pollocks and began narrowing down the list till he found the designer. What resulted was a surprise to him and to Pollock: the creation of a new line of chairs and Pollock's return to industrial design at the age of 81. The CP Lounge Collection was introduced in 2012.
Pollock died in a fire at his home in Queens, NYC on Tuesday, August 20, 2013.
From bernhardtdesign.com, nytimes.com
|Swag Leg Chair by Herman Miller (1958)|
|657 Sling Chairs by Knoll (1960)|
|Penelope Chair by Castelli (1982)|
|CP Lounge Chair for Bernhardt Design (2012)|
|Charles Pollock and Jerry Helling with the CP Lounge Chair|
If you have a chance, I urge you to watch this video. It tells the story of Jerry Helling's search for Charles Pollock and Pollock's subsequent return to designing furniture. It is very moving, especially in light of the recent death of the designer.
Finding Charles Pollock