Art at Work: Early GM Designs of Dick Ruzzin

Over 30 sketches showcase the artistry that drives innovation

One of General Motor’s most prolific car designers, Dick Ruzzin got his start in GM design as a Junior Designer in Oldsmobile Exterior Design Studio. He would ultimately spend over 40 years designing for GM in its various studios for its various brands, before retiring as the Director of Design for Chevrolet cars.

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A "hot bed of design activity"

The collection displayed here, on loan from the artist, features works from his early career, from 1964-1979. It was a time that Ruzzin describes as a “hot-bed of design activity” under legendary Vice-President of Design Bill Mitchell. This hot-bed was comprised of multiple designers working in multiple studios, for car design is a collaborative process involving many different supporting disciplines. The designers generated enormous bodies of work, and like the cars themselves, these artworks had a function. They served as work products in the creation of commercial products. As a result, for many years their artistic value went largely unappreciated.

But as this exhibition shows, the creative output of these individuals was stunning. Automotive design was highly competitive, and designers learned very quickly that they needed to offer something special in order to succeed. Consequently, they produced vibrant works full of drama and movement in order to best showcase their ideas. The collection offers a rare glimpse into the art generated in the pursuit of a larger goal – to ultimately produce cars that were beautiful, functional, and desirable.

 
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