Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

Exhibitions | Visions of Architectopia

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

Archigram (Ron Herron),
Instant City – Local parts, 1970
© Deutsches Architekturmuseum




Constant – New Babylon
Gemeentemuseum den Haag
The Hague | The Netherlands
> 25 September 2016

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Superstudio 50
MAXXI Museum
Rome | Italy
> 4 September 2016

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Yesterday’s Future
Visionary designs by Future Systems and Archigram
Deutsches Architekturmuseum / DAM
Frankfurt am Main | Germany
> 18 September 2016

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Frederick Kiesler. Life Visions
Museum für angewandte Kunst / MAK
Vienna | Austria
> 2 October 2016




Frederick Kiesler,
View of the Raumstadt (City in Space), 1925,
Exposition internationale des Arts
décoratifs et industriels modernes, Paris, 1925
© 2016 Austrian Frederick and
Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation, Vienna



Unconsciously coordinated and complementary, a cluster of exhibitions this summer in The Netherlands, Italy, and Austria, celebrates the utopian visions of Constant, Friedrich Kiesler, Superstudio, Future Systems and Archigram, respectively. Once considered outlandish, even silly, the avant garde experiments of these early and late twentieth century architect pioneers is exerting a strong influence on mainstream contemporary architecture and city planning.

Artist, designer, architect, set and exhibition designer with revolutionary, utopian concepts, Frederick Kiesler (1890>1965) was born in a remote corner of the then Austro-Hungarian Empire, (now Ukraine), and studied architecture and painting in Vienna, where, amongst luminaries that included Otto Wagner, Josef Hoffmann, and Adolf Loos, he would become obsessed with the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk. Developing out of his experimental theatre ideas that dissolved the separation between spectators and actors and integrated both in a unified space, in his Raumstadt (City in Space) (1925) Kiesler proposed a model for the city of the future. Having drafted his Manifeste du Corréalisme during a trip to Paris, at the invitation of Marcel Duchamp and Andre Bréton, he wrote that the elements of construction – whether for a city, a chair, or a house – should be a ‘nucleus of possibilities’ developed and transformed in relation to its environment. In 1926, he relocated to New York, where he would eventually install a model of his Endless House at New York’s Museum of Modern Art 1960 show, Visionary Architecture. Meanwhile, Frederick Kiesler. Life Visions at Vienna’s Museum für angewandte Kunst / MAK, is a portal into Kiesler’s complex world and thought processes.

Future Systems (Jan Kaplický + Amanda Levete),
Manhattan with ‘Coexistence (Project 112)’
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 1989
© Kaplicky Centre, Prague



With 44 exhibits from each group, Yesterday’s Future: Visionary designs by Future Systems and Archigram at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum / DAM focuses on detailed technical drawings, brightly coloured collages and original models. The works by Czech architect and founder of Future Systems, Jan Kaplický, who emigrated to London in 1968, date from the 1980s and 1990s and are juxtaposed against designs created 20 years before by the Archigram architectural group that comprised Peter Cook, Ron Herron, and Dennis Crompton. The space architecture by Archigram was created around the time of the Moon landing in an era shaped by new beginnings. In contrast, Future Systems designed its self-sufficient, machine-like living capsules for a gloomy world at the height of the Cold War. Whereas Archigram conceived organic architecture that ensured survival in inhospitable environments, Future Systems technologically sophisticated designs were located in more accessible natural surroundings or in concentrated, built-up cities. Intended as suggestions for living, working and for survival at times of social upheaval, the majority of the utopian designs by both groups never left the drawing board.

Installation at the exhibition
Adolfo Natalini Superarchitettura,
Galleria Jolly 2, Pistoia 1966
Photo C Toraldo di Francia
Superstudio 50, MAXXI Museum



Founded in 1966 by Adolfo Natalini and Cristiano Toraldo di Francia, who were later joined by four others, Superstudio was one of the most influential groups in radical twentieth century Italian architecture. Superstudio 50 at Rome’s MAXXI Museum presents 200 items, ranging from installations to objects, from graphic works to photographs, with publications covering the entire career and development of the group. The exhibition includes the most important drawings, photomontages and installations from The Continuous Monument series (1969), the Architectural Histograms (1969-70) and The Twelve Ideal Cities (1971), projects through which the Superstudio attempted to demonstrate the possibilities and the limits of architecture, and were intended as a critique of contemporary society.

Constant Nieuwenhuys,
Klein Labyr, maquette, 1959
New Babylon, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag



Constant Nieuwenhuys (1920 > 2005), a leading member of the CoBrA group, expressed his ideas for a new world in New Babylon (1974), one of the largest and most visionary projects in post-war architectural history. The vast majority of the works associated with it are in the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag collection, but have never before been displayed in all their diversity. Constant – New Babylon at Gemeentemuseum den Haag, including extensive documentation and reconstructions, is one of the largest exhibitions ever presented on this key work.

All images courtesy the respective exhibition venues


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Art | Edward Kienholz: Five Car Stud

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Edward Kienholz
Detail of Five Car Stud, 1969 > 1972
Mixed media tableau
Dimensions variable
© Kienholz
Courtesy L A Louver, Venice, CA
Photo © Tom Vinetz 2011



Kienholz: Five Car Stud
Fondazione Prada
Milan | Italy
19 May > 31 December 2016



Edward Kienholz
Five Car Stud, 1969 > 1972
Mixed media tableau
Dimensions variable
© Kienholz
Courtesy L A Louver, Venice, CA
Photo © Tom Vinetz 2011



The American artist Edward Kienholz died in 1994 and was buried in a 1940 Packard coupé. The forthcoming presentation at Fondazione Prada of his ghoulish Five Car Stud installation feels something like an exhumation. The artwork, produced between 1969 and 1972, having been first exhibited in 1972 at Documenta 5 in Kassel, and the subject of great controversy at the time, barely shown in public thereafter, was buried deep within a private collection in Japan for almost forty years.

Five Car Stud is a life-sized reproduction, complete in every harrowing detail, of a night scene of brutal racial violence. Lit by the headlights of four cars and a pickup truck, set in an isolated location, a black man portrayed with a double face – one expresses sadness and resignation, the other terror and rage –  has been knocked to the ground. Four white men wearing gruesome masks, pin him down as another prepares to castrate him. While his terrified son looks on from the passenger seat of his car, a sixth masked man stands guard with a shotgun. Shocked and powerless, a white woman – the victim’s date – is forced to witness his ordeal.

Everyone has heard of the beat generation writers – William S Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac – but beat generation artists such as Edward Kienholz (1927 > 1994), who shared the literary movement’s ideals of rejecting materialism and the creation of explicit portrayals of the human condition, are perhaps less familiar. Kienholz grew up in Washington State and never attended art college. By working at various times as a nurse, bar-owner, car dealer, handyman (his truck carried the inscription Ed Kienholz – Expert), he gained experience and insights that would provide invaluable inspiration for the ‘art of repulsion’, based on realistic, re-imagined situations, he wanted to create.

Having relocated to Los Angeles in 1953, adopting assemblage as his medium Kienholz embarked on a creative route that led him to make small-scale ‘tableaux’ such as O’er the Ramparts We Watched, Fascinated (1959), which is included in this exhibition. Not included, but as forceful, visceral and grimy as Burrough’s prose, Kienholz’s The Beanery (1965) forms part of Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum collection, and is a life-sized reconstruction of a decaying bar on Santa Monica Boulevard. The artist applied a special paste – a mixture of beer, rancid fat, urine, mothballs and cigarette ash – to his creation to give it the authentic stink. In terms of ambition it can be seen as a portent to Five Car Stud.

Edward & Nancy Reddin Kienholz
The Bronze Pinball Machine with Woman Affixed Also, 1980
Mixed media assemblage
© Kienholz
Courtesy L A Louver, Venice, CA



Edward & Nancy Reddin Kienholz
Jody, Jody, Jody, 1993-94
Mixed media tableau
© Kienholz
Courtesy L A Louver, Venice, CA



Like many of the later twentieth century art genres, assemblage had its roots in cubism and dada. Indeed, Kienholz’s work first gained national exposure when it was shown alongside that of European artists Picasso, Kurt Schwitters and Marcel Duchamp, among others, in The Art of Assemblage at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1961, after which he began to gain international recognition. However, in terms of content and treatment, Kienholz’s approach had more in common with the German Neue Sachlichkeit artists’ Otto Dix and George Grosz’s unforgiving depiction of Weimar Society and the First World War. By 1970, his 11+11 Tableaux exhibition was being presented in Stockholm, Amsterdam, Düsseldorf, Paris, Zürich and London.

From 1972 onwards, Kienholz worked in exclusive collaboration with his wife, Nancy Reddin Kienholz. Constantly travelling between their homes in Hope, Idaho and Berlin, and later Texas, the couple produced shockingly thought-provoking pieces such as in The Bronze Pinball Machine with Woman Affixed Also (1980), in which a woman’s spread legs and exposed vagina cast in bronze are attached to a pinball machine, the female body relegated to an object of sexual entertainment. The artwork Jody, Jody, Jody (1994), inspired by a single real life event, is nevertheless a comment on general attitudes toward child abuse. Both pieces (shown here) will be shown in Milan.

Their human scale, and composition – leftover bits of mannequin dummies, threadbare clothing, or plaster casts of real human bodies, and real wristwatches – render Kienholz’s installations unnervingly realistic. The viewer may experience repulsion or sympathy but is instantly transformed into a voyeur, participation is mandatory and unavoidable.

Following restoration Five Car Stud appeared in 2011 and 2012, first at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and then at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark. Today it is part of the Prada Collection, and is being shown for the first time ever in Italy in this eponymously titled show at Fondazione Prada.

All images courtesy Fondazione Prada


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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


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Art | Back to Front

Friday, November 27th, 2015

Giulio Paolini
Senza titolo, 1964
Paper, masonite board
Photo Giuseppe Schiavinotto.
Archivio Luciano Pistoi



Recto Verso
Fondazione Prada
Milan | Italy
3 December 2015 > 7 February 2016



Daniel Dezeuze
Chassis avec feuille de plastique tendue, 1967
Wood, plastic
Courtesy Galerie Bernard Ceysson



Question. Take nothing at face value. Nothing is ever quite what it seems, especially in terms of art. Even Kazimir Malevich’s groundbreaking and uncompromising Black Square, 1915 – the first non-objective or abstract painting – was this year, when Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery examined it for the first time with x-rays, discovered to have two earlier paintings hidden beneath it’s surface.

While historical precedents occur in Byzantine art – two-sided icons bearing representations of the virgin and child on one side and the crucifixion on the other – and elsewhere, perhaps the multi-facetted Marcel Duchamp (1887 > 1968) was one of the earliest modern artists to play with the concept of recto/verso, in which the flip-side of a piece of art is given equal and serious consideration, along with the front. By 1915, he had already conceived of and started working on his complex, monumental work, The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even / The Large Glass, (1915 > 23), a free-standing glass construction, almost three metres tall by two wide, which was specifically intended to be viewed from both sides.

Malevich (1879 > 1935) had said, ‘It is from zero, in zero, that the true movement of being begins,’ and it was the Zero group of post-World War II, originally European, artists, who would seek to annihilate all forms of representation within art. To celebrate the possibilities inherent in ‘nothingness’, and attempting to penetrate the mysterious concept of the fourth dimension, they began examining the canvas itself and the frame around which it was stretched, with a view toward breaking through its confines. Lucio Fontana would famously slash his canvases, while other Zero artists would turn them to face the wall so as to better appreciate their construction, and to suggest that what happens on the hidden, or reverse side of a work of art is just as worthy of consideration as what happens on the more normally exposed ‘front’.

Thomas Demand
Lightbox, 2004
C-Print / Diasec
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / SIAE, Rome.
Courtesy Sprüth Magers



Giulio Paolini
Decima Musa, 1966
Three triangular canvases.
© Giulio Paolini
Photo Attilio Maranzano.
Private Collection, Bari



Roy Lichtenstein
Stretcher Frame with Vertical Bar, 1968
Oil and magna on canvas
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein / SIAE 2015



Leading exponent of arte povera in the late 1960s, Italian painter and sculptor, Giulio Paolini (b 1940), who trained as a graphic designer and countered what he considered to be the ‘picturesqueness’ of France’s art informel, abstract art movement of the 1940s and 50s, by concentrating on the basic components of painting – canvas, frame, paint of a single colour – or even the abolition of paint in favour of a completely bare surface. And, in the year that pop artist Roy Lichtenstein produced his own stripped-down recto / verso paintings, the cataclysmic events of May 1968 in Paris implanted the idea in a generation of French youth that it was their task to dismantle every form of received structure, including those in contemporary art. They were to embark on a radical deconstruction of accepted mediums. The support/surfaces group of artists, that emerged in France, that included, among others, founder member Daniel Dezeuze (b 1942), rejecting the often unwieldy, modular constructions of American minimalism – the established avant garde art of the period – sought lightness and physical freedom. They considered the portability of art and the use of basic and cheap materials, such as strips of newspaper, bed-sheets, dish-cloths and scraps of canvas they used to make it, as important, which led some to re-assess the simplicity of the canvas-based painting. However, by 1970, they were insisting that painting could ‘exist only through the systematic elimination of all subjective practice,’ via the rejection of the brush, but, interestingly, not the painting. In some of the resulting works, the picture plane vanished completely, and all that remained was the support material.

Recto Verso, at Fondazione Prada presents artworks by artists from different generations and across a range of genres, all of which consciously push the hidden concealed or forgotten phenomenon of ‘the back’ firmly into the foreground.

All images courtesy Fondazione Prada


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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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Photography | Photographing the Future

Friday, July 10th, 2015

Spettralizzazione dell ‘Io, 1931, Maggiorino Gramaglia
Photomontage. Museo Nazionale del Cinema collection, Turin



Fotografica Futurista / Futurist Photography
Galleria Carla Sozzani
Milan | Italy
Curated by Giovanni Lista
Until 1 November 2015



Portrait of Anton Giulio Bragaglia, 1913, Gustavo Bonaventura
Private collection



Already late for a new century that was desperate to put a lid on its predecessor’s old-fashioned ideas about art, Picasso’s celebrated painting Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) is generally accepted as the first cubist work. It signalled the future and was to trigger a revolution. Two years later, sick and tired of Italy’s oppressive culture that was particularly dependent upon its ancient past, Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti published his Manifesto of Futurism on the front page of the Paris newspaper Le Figaro, in which he announced, ominously, ‘…we will free Italy from her innumerable museums, which cover her like countless cemeteries.’

Shoe, 1940, Elio Luxardo
Archivio Fotografico Fondazione 3M, Milan



Speed, 1930, Italo Bertoglio
Fondo Italo Bertoglio, Turin



Futurism had significant influence on constructivist, surrealist, dadaist and vorticist painting and sculpture, but whereas these were already established art forms, it would radically alter the course of photography, which had so far been little more than a pastime for those who could afford to play around with it. Taking hold of the illusion of the ‘natural’ that was prevalent in much nineteenth photography, that purported to reflect nature but was actually based on studio constructions and classical composition, it stripped away the artifice, often humorously exposing the old techniques to the viewer. The futurists doubled or split images to capture a sequence, and as a method of freezing movement. They invented ‘fotodinamismo’ or the photography of movement as energy, and explored the possibility of the medium to fix a sudden gesture, or to capture the light trail drawn by a moving body.

Self-portrait with cigarette, 1915, Fortunato Depero
Photo-performance with graphic intervention.
Mart, Archivio del ‘900, Fondo Fortunato Depero



From light to darkness, 1931, Piero Boccardi
Photomontage. Giorgio Grillo collection, Florence



With over one hundred original photographs, representing the work of over thirty photographers, from both private and national collections, Fotografia Futurista at the Carla Sozzani Gallery demonstrates how over a fifty year period the futurists took possession of the photographic language and used it as a medium to capture the pulse of life at the time. In so doing, the futurists transformed photography into the dynamic, potent and multifaceted force it became in both art and commerce in the twentieth century, that continues in the twenty-first century, and will doubtless continue into the future.

All images courtesy Galleria Carla Sozzani, Milan, Italy


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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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Design | Forgotten Swiss Lamm that Roared in Italy

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Fashion 1960, for professional travellers, la Rinascente, 1960
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



Lora Lamm – La vita è bella
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
Zürich | Switzerland
Until 16 August 2015



The garden – the house in the country – the city terrace, la Rinascente, 1956
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



The celebrated department store chain, La Rinascente, founded in 1917, (in Thai ownership since 2011) remains little known outside of Italy. With the exception of Switzerland, the same can be said of Swiss polymath designer / illustrator / art director, Lora Lamm.

La Rinascente was one of a number of innovative companies, including the tyre manufacturer, Pirelli, that during the post-war period latched on to the idea – pioneered by Olivetti – of establishing in-house advertising and PR departments that would develop a rapport with a new breed of designers with whom they collaborated to produce highly-creative advertising and promotional material.

Lamm, though often previously overlooked – she doesn’t rate a Wikipedia entry – whose work was synonymous with La Rinascente’s success during the period, was a major contributor to Italian design in the 1950s and 1960s. This month, in recognition of her contribution to the advancement of Swiss design both nationally and internationally, the Swiss Federal Office of Culture has awarded her the annual Grand Prix Design Award 2015.

Sales, 1957
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



Fashion spread, la Rinascente, c 1960
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



Roles, Pirelli, 1961
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



Lamm (b 1928), studied graphic design from 1946 to 1951 in Zürich under, among others, the former Bauhaus master Johannes Itten, and was afterwards drawn to flourishing Milan, which was enjoying an economic boom. After gaining a foothold at Studio Boggeri, where well-regarded Swiss designers were already working, she later moved to Panettone Motta Milano as a packaging designer. In 1954, on the recommendation of the Swiss graphic designer Max Huber, who was already an established designer at La Rinascente – he had designed their logo – Lamm was taken on by the company, where she was soon made responsible for the design and production of the store’s in-house magazine, Cronache.

Inspired by the latest graphics produced for international department stores in New York and Tokyo that she mixed freely with the rational, modernist influences she brought from Switzerland, Lamm rapidly imposed her own design vision that served the management’s purpose of attracting female clientele to La Rinascente.

Schools department, la Rinascente, 1958
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



After Huber left the store in 1958, Lamm was put in sole charge of the creative department, producing the company’s catalogues, posters, advertisements, invitations, mailers, packaging and other publicity, but still found time to carry out freelance work for Pirelli, Elizabeth Arden and Olivetti.

The light, positive feelings embodied in her work for the store characterised by illustrations of charming, child-like simplicity, and by fluid and elegant typography, was carried through to her posters for Pirelli. Here she juxtaposed whimsical illustration against perfectly-drawn black, scraper-board images of tyres, and often used photography.

In 1963, Lamm returned to Zürich, where she still lives and continues to work.

Lora Lamm – La vita è bella, currently showing at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich’s Schaudepot is an exhibition concerned almost exclusively with the designer’s poster work. A limited selection of original Lora Lamm poster designs is available to buy via the Swiss gallery, Artifiche.

All posters designed by Lora Lamm, © the artist, courtesy of Museum für Gestaltung Zürich



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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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Design | Lino (Murano Maestro) Tagliapietra

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Coronato, Murano, 2000
Estimate $10,000 > $15,000
Sculptural vessel in blown
and battuto glass
36 x 12 ins / 91.4 x 30.5 cm



Lino Tagliapietra
Modern Ceramics and Glass
Rago Arts and Auction Center
Lambertville, New Jersey, USA
Exhibition until 13th February 2015
Sale 14th February 2015



A long way from the island of Murano in the beautiful Venetian Lagoon, Lambertville can be found, as it says on the Rago website, ’midway between Philadelphia and New York City.’ In the production of fine glass objects, Murano has led the world since the 14th century. Lambertville was a thriving 19th century factory town where great quantities of a diverse range of goods – from underwear to rubber bands – were made in vast quantities. But while Murano continued to develop or refine a wide range of glass-making technologies that include crystalline glass, enamelled glass (smalto), gold-threaded glass (aventurine), multicoloured glass (millefiori), and milk glass (lattimo), in Lambertville, which had previously grown up around a once important crossing on the Delaware river, by the 1970s, commerce had waned considerably. Unsurprisingly, its quality so consistently high, Murano’s art glass and glass figurines, glass chandeliers, wine stoppers and hundreds of thousands of tourist souvenirs found their way to every corner of the world. In the meantime, once Lambertville’s factories disappeared and the town was cleaned up, its fortunes improved to such an extent that it also became a tourist destination.

Test Piece, Murano, 1984
Blown glass vase
9 x 6 ins / 22.8 x 15.2 cm



Venetian glass artist, Lino Tagliapietra was born in Murano in 1934 and, when little more than a boy, was sent to work in the island’s glass factories. Aged 21, he was granted the title Maestro (Master glass blower) and made fine items for some of the most prestigious glassworks on the island. At the Venice Biennales, which he regularly attended, Tagliapietra was fascinated by the work of Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Ellsworth Kelly. In the 1960s, with supreme technical and aesthetic standards that earned him significant commercial success, he started to create his own modern artistic forms. Renowned American glass sculptor Dale Chihuly (b 1941) visited Murano in 1968, where he taught Tagliapietra the techniques he had developed, which Tagliapietra passed on to the other maestri. In return Tagliapietra taught Chihuly, the Venetians’ glassworkers secrets.


Bilbao, Murano, 2001
(Shown from three angles)
Sculptural vessel in blown
and battuto glass
23.5 x 13 in / 59.6 x 33 cm



Tagliapietra’s material of choice is effetre glass, or F3 – an abbreviated form of fratelli tre, ‘three brothers’ – is a variety of soda-lime glass. This type of material is usually used for making lamps, and is worked by using a torch to melt and shape it at 945°C. It is considered a medium-soft glass and is popular because of its wide colour range and the ease with which it is moulded and shaped. Genuine glass of this type is made by the Effetre International Company on Murano, where Tagliapieta was artistic and technical director from 1976 to 1989. But teaching has defined the artist, who first visited the United States in 1979. He has since led workshops and taught in glass programmes around the world, but especially in America – the Haystack School of Crafts, Deer Isle ME, Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood WA, Rhode Island School of Design RI, MIT Glass Lab, Cambridge MA – but also at the Toyama Art School, Toyama, Japan, and the University of Sydney, Australia, and in many more education establishments. He set up on his own in 1990 and dedicated himself to creating unique pieces, which soon became sought after, and many of which are now in the permanent collections of some of the most eminent museums in the world, including, among many others, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Lausanne, Switzerland. He is also represented in numerous galleries and private collections. In 2009, the Museum of Tacoma dedicated a major travelling retrospective exhibition to Tagliapietra’s work, which was also hosted by other American museums including: The Smithsonian, Washington DC, and the Palm Springs Art Museum, California.

Stellato glass vase,
Marseilles, 1991
12 x 6.5 x 3 ins /
30.5 x 16.5 x 7.6 cm



Aged sixteen, David Rago began dealing in American decorative ceramics at a flea market in his home state of New Jersey. Over the years, his business grew and grew, so that today, with two partners, one of whom is his wife Suzanne Perrault, he oversees Lambertville’s prestigious Rago Arts and Auction Center, dealing exclusively in 20th and 21st century antiques and collectibles. Suzanne, who is in charge of contemporary glass at Rago, and David have both visited Murano, but have yet to enjoy the pleasure of hosting Lino Tagliapietra in Lambertville. However his work has often been sold there, and on Saturday afternoon, the Modern Ceramics and Glass auction, features six of the Maestro’s key pieces.



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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due must be borne by the source supplier



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Art | ZERO

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Piero Manzoni, Achrome, 1961
Fibreglass wool in artist’s box
Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York
Gift, Manzoni Family, 1993, 93.4225
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS) / SIAE Rome




ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s
Guggenheim Museum
New York City | USA
10th October 2014 > 7th January 2015




However much we deplore them and the death and destruction they represent, wars are often the catalysts for new developments in art. Wars, in terms of art, therefore, have a positive as well as a negative value. Before them comes the art of anger, protest and propaganda; during, the art that strives to represent the truth of the situation – from whichever viewpoint the artist is in sympathy with – after, comes the art created out of the need to move on; an experimental period, which can be a tremendously productive one.

Otto Piene, Light Ballet (Light Satellite) (top)
and Light Ballet (Light Drum), 1969
Chrome, glass, and light bulbs
Moeller Fine Art, New York
© Otto Piene
Photo courtesy Moeller Fine Art, New York




Born in the decade when the US government, in its bid to lead the way in the ‘conquest of outer space’ called its pioneering satellite program ‘Vanguard’, ZERO (1957 > 1966) was established in Europe by Düsseldorf-based artists Otto Piene and Heinz Mack. Piene explained that by naming the group ZERO, their aim was to suggest ‘pure possibilities for a new beginning, as at the countdown when rockets take off… the zone in which the old turns into the new.’ It would focus on light, movement and space, while closely examining the relationship between man, nature and technology.

In a disfigured country, still reeling from the shockwaves of World War II, in which Germany had been at the epicentre, the core group, later joined by another German, Günther Uecker, fostered connections among artists but stressed individual authorship. It was to attract a related network that would span continents, linking artists in Germany, Italy and The Netherlands to others in Brazil, Japan, and North and South America. ZERO sought to annihilate all forms of representation within art in order to celebrate the possibilities inherent in ‘nothingness’: to move beyond the confines of the canvas and so attempt to penetrate the mysterious concept of the fourth dimension. Fire, earth and air would figure prominently in their artworks. Through connected artists such as Yves Klein – who also became a member of French art movement Nouveau RéalismeJean Tinguely, and Lucio Fontana, ZERO would re-define painting, explore the monochrome, and serial structures, and produce artworks made from flames and smoke, filling whole galleries with their environmental works, they would turn to the deserts and skies as viable sites for art. Highly influential, one 1961 show, ZERO: Edition, Exposition, Demonstration, held both inside and outside Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf, in which performers marked out a ‘Zero zone’ with white paint around other participants, blew bubbles and launched a balloon into the night sky was witnessed by artist Joseph Beuys – who had his first one man show that year and started to give action-performances in 1963 – and Nam Juin Paik, Korean founder of video art.

Yves Klein, Untitled red monochrome (M 63), 1959
Dry pigment in synthetic resin on board
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Gift, Andrew Powie Fuller and Geraldine Spreckels
Fuller Collection, 1999, 2000.28
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / ADAGP, Paris




Lichtraum; Hommage à Fontana / Light Room: Homage to Fontana (1964) , being shown for the first time in the United States, in the forthcoming Guggenheim exhibition ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s > 1960s, is an installation containing a projection of a painting by Lucio Fontana, and individual contributions by Mack, Piene, and Uecker, as well as the only two works produced in collaboration by the trio. The piece is particularly significant as an expression of the genesis of the group’s philosophy. In 1949, Fontana, the man who later dismissed Jackson Pollock – generally regarded as the most forward-thinking painter of the early 1950s – as merely ‘post-impressionist’, had written, ‘I assure you that on the moon… they will not be painting, but making spatial art.’ ‘Spazialismo,’ as he christened his own movement, established in 1947, he explained, ‘would be an art contained in space in all its dimensions.’ In 1956 > 57, also anticipating the ZERO movement’s aims, another Italian artist and later group member, Piero Manzoni had determined to find a means of expressing the power of the subconscious via the creation of completely subjectless work that emphasised the surface and materials as the only focus of the piece.

In his book, Space Age Aesthetics (2009), author Stephen Peterson tells us that in the year of Lichtraum’s creation, philosopher Marshall McLuhan wrote ‘There is no longer any sense in talking about the artist’s being ahead of his time. Our technology is, also, ahead of its time,’ which could be taken to signify, whether or not it was true, that the writing was already on the wall for ZERO’s demise that followed, two years later, in 1966.

Heinz Mack, New York, New York, 1963
Aluminium and wood
Private collection
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo Heinz Mack




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Photography | Sweet Life / Cheap Shots

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Marcello Mastroianni,
on the set of La Dolce Vita

c 1960



The Years of La Dolce Vita
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
London | UK
Until 29th June 2014




Richard Burton
and Liz Taylor
kissing in Ischia
June 1962

Brigitte Bardot
in Spoleto
June 1961

Raquel Welch
and Marcello Mastroianni
at Cinecittà on
the set of the movie
Shoot Loud, Louder,
I do not understand …
1966

Carlo Ponti,
Sophia Loren and
Vittorio De Sica
Rome, 1961



To put it plainly, in comparison to Hollywood, studio costs at Rome’s Cinecittà were cheap. Ben-Hur (1959) and Cleopatra (1963) were made there at a fraction of the budget required to produce such epics in the US. And when big stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, and Charlton Heston went there to work, their friends would tag along to play.

The day’s filming over, the action shifted to the streets. The presence of Audrey Hepburn, John Wayne, Raquel Welch, Alain Delon, and any number of cinema’s pantheon of stars who happened to be in town, in the restaurants and shopping on the exclusive Via Veneto transformed the street into an open-air film set.

If the 1950s and 60s were a golden age for Italian cinema, when home-grown directors Federico Fellini, Michaelangelo Antonioni, and Pier Paolo Pasolini came to the fore, making some of their most famous and successful movies, the era represented an absolute gold mine for photographers.

It was here that the term paparazzo – taken from the name of a photojournalist character in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960) – was coined. It appears that Fellini’s screenwriter borrowed it from Italian poet Margherita Guidacci’s Sulla riva dello Jonio (1957), who in turn had used it in her translation of English author George Gissing’s travel book By the Ionian Sea (1901), in which a restaurant owner is called Coriolano Paparazzo. By the late 1960s, transformed into a noun – usually in the Italian plural form – paparazzi had entered the English language. Used to deride intrusive photographers, it can also sometimes be unfairly employed as a cheap shot at their camera-wielding, alleged persecutors by those who feel intruded upon.

The eighty photographs on view in The Years of La Dolce Vita exhibition at the Estorick Collection capture the dolce vita (literally ‘sweet life’), vividly evoking an era of extraordinary glamour, creativity and decadence enjoyed by Italian film stars and Hollywood ‘royalty’ working in Rome during the 1960s. Juxtaposing real-life images taken by Marcello Geppetti – among those on whom the paparazzo role in the film was based – whose work has drawn comparisons with that of Cartier-Bresson and Weegee – with behind-the-scenes shots on the film set by its cameraman, Arturo Zavattini, the curators challenge visitors to consider their response to the media’s obsession with celebrity, the invasive nature of the images, and the guilty pleasure we take in looking at them.

All photographs Marcello Gepetti(1933-1998),
except top, Arturo Zavattini (1930 >).
All photographs MGMC & Solares Fondazione delle Arti,
except top,
Solares Fondazione delle Arti



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Design | Italy in Paris

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Osvaldo Borsani
Model at16 coatstand
in leather, brass and walnut
Produced by Tecno, 1961
Est €6,000 > 8,000



Italian Design
PIASA Rive Gauche
Paris | France
Exhibition: 10th April > 14th April 2014
Sale: 15th April 2014

In the 1980s London fell in love with design. It was cool to kit out your home with slick and beautifully made contemporary Italian furniture and lighting from Zeev Aram and newly-established shops, such as Atrium, and The London Lighting Company. From its launch in 1983, the names of architects and designers Vico Magistretti, Achille Castiglioni, as well as that of Ettore Sotsass, figured regularly and prominently in the British magazine Blueprint. At about the same time, and although I and other like-minded Londoners spoke no Italian, we began subscribing to, and each month poring over, great-looking Italian architecture and design magazines. Domus was one, Abitare another – the latter art directed and edited by the legendary Italo Lupi (former art director of Domus) in which the work of the designers mentioned above would also feature, alongside that of Carlo Mollino, Gio Ponti (Domus’s founder) and Piero Fornasetti – each still relevant but more representative of an earlier era. However the list of lots in PIASA Rive Gauche’s forthcoming auction, reveals other important Italian figures, who are perhaps less familiar, or were lost in translation, and also includes anonymous pieces.

After training as an architect and designer, Osvaldo Borsani (1911 >1985), see image top, joined the family furniture-making business Atelier Varedo (later Arredamento Borsani). Very prolific as a designer of storage furniture and seating, in 1953 with his brother Fulgencio, Osvaldo founded the technology based company, Tecno, which still exists and is a well-known producer of innovative furniture for offices and public buildings.

Unknown designer
Sofa in wool and brass, c 1950
Est €18,000 > 25,000

Ico Parisi
Suite of six chairs
in painted wood
and leatherette
c 1955
Est €6,000 > 9,000

Ico Parisi’s (1916 > 1996) style epitomised the modern Italian look of the 1950s. Trained as architect, he spent time in the 1930s as a film-maker and went on to design everything from interiors to jewellery, sometimes working with his wife, Luisa, a former student of Gio Ponti.

Pucci de Rossi
Rocking chair
in steel, prototype, 2001
Est €10,000 > 15,000

Born in Verona, Italy, artist, sculptor and designer, de Rossi (1947 > 2013) lived and worked in Paris from 1979. Post-modern by nature, rather than producing useful functional objects and furniture, he sought to imbue his creations with imagination, humour and irony.

BBPR
Trolley in metal and wood
One-off piece, designed for a
Milanese apartment, 1959
Est €4,000 > 6,000

Set up in Milan in 1932, BBPR was a studio of modern movement architects, planners and designers, composed of Gian Luigi Banfi, Ludovico Barbiato di Belgiojoso, Enrico Peressutti and Ernesto Nathan Rogers, who were responsible for the post World War II reconstruction of the city. They produced chair designs for Arflex – now back in production – and BBPR’s Olivetti showroom on Fifth Avenue, New York City (1954), is regarded as among the most innovative small-scale projects of the period.

Pierre Cardin
Table lamp in metal and glass
Produced by Venini c1970
Est €3,000 > 4,000

Significantly, because the Italian approach to production of furniture and lighting has always been crafts-based – which attracted designers from around the world to produce work for or with Italian companies – the PIASA Rive Gauche Italian Design sale features pieces by non-Italians, including, appropriately – it taking place in Paris – Frenchman Pierre Cardin (1922 >), who happens to have been born in Italy.


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Design | Gio Ponti: Surface & Light

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Giving Warmth to The Building’s Skin
– The World of Gio Ponti, Father of Modern Italian Design
Inax Museums (Lixil Group), Tokoname, Japan
Until 18th March, 2014

A now-famous photograph of Gio Ponti’s super-light Superleggera chair, held up in the air with a single finger by a female model, appeared in a 1952 edition of Domus magazine. The chair itself (second exhibition picture, below) and the way it was presented can be seen as symbolic of Ponti’s pursuit of the light and the slim in his design and architecture.

Earlier in his career, from 1923 to 1930, Gio Ponti (1891-1979) had worked at ceramics company Manifattura Ceramica Richard Ginori, in Milan and Sesto Fiorentino, where his life-long obsession with the interior and exterior skin of buildings was kindled. Under his strong influence the entire output of the company would dramatically change.

To communicate texture and character, seeking to add a tactile quality to his buildings, Ponti incorporated both handcrafted and machine-made ceramics. Torafu Architects, designers of the current exhibition, Giving Warmth to The Building’s Skin – The World of Gio Ponti, Father of Modern Italian Design, at Inax Museums in pottery town, Tokaname, Japan, created a framework that gives an illusion of floating volumes, allowing for a sense of lightness, reflecting Ponti’s original aesthetic.

In the show, many of Ponti’s sketches and architectural drawings appear alongside items of his furniture, and, so that visitors can better experience his architectural style – with the full support of the Gio Ponti Archives (Milan) – Inax have reproduced many actual tiles to Ponti’s authentic designs.

Photos
Top: Balcony balustrade and decorative
floor tiles at the Gio Ponti-designed
Hotel Parco Dei Principi, Sorrento, Italy
©Pedro Silmon

Exhibition images: Daici Ano
Original sketch by Gio Ponti
©Gio Ponti Archives

Bottom: Gio Ponti-designed upholstered
version of the Superleggera chair
at the Hotel Parco Dei Principi
©Pedro Silmon

Exhibition images: Daici Ano

Original sketch by Gio Ponti
©Gio Ponti Archives


Exhibition curated by Kaoru Tashiro
Design: Torafu Architects
Sponsored by Lixil Corporation in special
cooperation with the Gio Ponti Archives



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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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