Stuart Davis, Paul Rand and Rappaport’s Toys

I just realized, after digging deep into my subconscious and Google too, why I have an affinity for Paul Rand’s work. It starts with tonsillitis. I was seven, and I had the operation at the Civil War–era Columbia Hospital on Second Avenue and 20th Street, complete with a 19th century children’s ward filled with rows of metal-framed beds. It felt in every way that it was still the Civil War era (the hospital was torn down immediately following my ordeal).

My parents promised that as consolation I could have not one but three presents from Rappaport’s Toy Bazaar on 78th Street and Third Avenue. It was a poor man’s F.A.O. Schwartz, but I didn’t care. Rappaport’s was co-owned by Seymour Schwartz (no relation) and Harold Ostrover, his partner and brother-in-law. My mom knew Harold.

They wrapped everything in their signature polka dot paper (prior to Yayoi Kusama too), which inspired Stuart Davis’s 1951–1952 “Rapt At Rappaport’s” (above) a painting of abstract shapes, primary color and letters now at the Hirschorn Museum. “Rapt” has certain similarities to Paul Rand’s own abstract collages and lettering designs. And although I knew about Davis’s painting because a small copy hung near the cash register, I had yet to learn about Rand. Subconscious being what it is, I became interested in the Rand work (especially El Producto), no doubt, because of the Davis painting, which, no doubt, was directly connected to Rappaport’s. Incidentally, I don’t recall all three gifts, but I did get a Fort Apache set based on the Rin Tin Tin show, which had nothing to do with polka dots, Davis or Rand.


The deadline for the Regional Design Awards has been extended, but only until April 30.

Your judges: Sagi Haviv, Rebeca Méndez, Nancy Skolos, Alexander Isley, Chad Michael, Gail Anderson and Justin Peters.

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