Posts Tagged ‘The Met Breuer’

Design | Post Ettore Sottsass Modernism

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Carlton room divider, 1981
Wood, plastic laminate.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
John C Waddell Collection,
Gift of John C Waddell, 1997



Ettore Sottsass: Design Radical
The Met Breuer
NYC | USA
21 July > 8 October 2017



I remember cursing postmodernism in the mid-1990s. Having arrived jet-lagged at the Philippe Starck-designed Royalton hotel in New York, I tripped over the rear leg of the designer’s ‘iconic’ Costes armchair (1984) – which might look elegant, but sticks out way too far – and ended up in a heap on the floor.

Like the art deco architecture and design it often resembled, early postmodernism was showy – in many instances, tacky – and unfit for purpose. What made things worse was that, once it really started to roll in the early 1980s and the requirement for objects and buildings to function was sidelined, postmodernism became a bandwagon that was easy to leap on to. Many did just that, in the process, transforming what had begun a couple of decades earlier as a radical philosophical concept in the minds of respected architecture and design theorists into a widespread and rather frivolous fad. Suddenly, there was a lot of money around and people couldn’t wait to find things to spend it on. Bored with what was currently on offer, desperate to find something exciting, new and different, they lapped it up in whatever form it was presented to them.

By the 1960s, Ettore Sottsass (1917 > 2007) was already bored by the functional. ‘When I was young, all we ever heard about was functionalism, functionalism, functionalism. It’s not enough’ he was heard to complain. His stated aim for the Valentine portable typewriter (1969), one of his most successful achievements for Olivetti, was to create an object that could ‘influence not only physical conditions but also emotions, [that could] touch the nerves, the blood, the muscles, the eyes and the moods of people.’ Born in Austria, educated in Italy, he established his first studio in Milan in 1947. Best known for his work with Olivetti, where for many years he was the company’s design consultant, and for the design collective Memphis, founded in 1981, Sottsass’s work would gradually evolve from modernism into postmodernism. The shift was triggered by the influences he gathered through a trip to the United States, where he worked for a month at the designer George Nelson’s office, and another to India in 1961, after which he began to create objects imbued with symbolism, emotional appeal, and global and traditional references.

Murmansk Fruit Dish, 1982
Silver.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
Gift of Ronald S Kane, 1992,
Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art



Meanwhile, in 1966, the American architect Robert Venturi, who wittily countered Mies van der Rohe’s ‘less is more’ axiom with his own ‘less is a bore’, published his influential book Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. It called for the return of decoration, symbolism, colour, pattern and references to historic structures in new buildings. As a result, over the course of the next couple of decades, pointed skyscrapers with concrete walls that looked as if they were carved from stone began to pop up in American cities. Because they constituted a reaction to the uncompromisingly modern, glass-and-steel structures that had been built following World War II, they were dubbed ‘postmodern’.

When Memphis made its controversial debut at the 1981 Salone del Mobile, a lot of people who had never appeared to have any interest in design, suddenly became very animated and excited; it was as if they’d been at a rather dull party and had been presented with a new and exotic cocktail. Veneered in colourful and patterned plastic laminates, like those used in 1950s American diners, Memphis design was, however, constructed using the finest cabinetmaking techniques marketed and priced beyond the reach of average consumers, it contributed to the blurring of the art and design markets and the rise of ‘collectible design’. Karl Lagerfeld, an ardent devotee of art deco in the 1970s, fell in love with it. Amassing an important collection of Memphis pieces – with help from interior designer Andrée Putman – he famously furnished an entire apartment in Monaco with them in 1983, only to sell off every item at Sotheby’s only eight years later.

Omaggio 3, 2007
Corian and wood.
Courtesy Gallery Mourmans



In retrospect, it would seem, postmodernism turned out to be a fad with substance. The work of its founders, including Sottsass and Venturi, who recognised the need for applying a broader range of thought processes to design and architecture, were important catalysts that provoked profound changes in the mindsets of architects and designers. Postmodernist thinking stimulated the impetus behind the surge of diverse creativity and innovation on which the modern world depends, and indeed, functions.

In its forthcoming exhibition, Ettore Sottsass: Design Radical, The Met Breuer attempts to re-evaluate Sottsass’s exceptionally productive career that spanned more than six decades, via a presentation of his key works in a wide range of media. Including architectural drawings, interiors, furniture, machines, ceramics, glass, jewellery, textiles, painting, and photography, it will offer new insights into his designs. Placing him within a broader design discourse, Sottsass’s work will be juxtaposed against ancient and contemporaneous objects that influenced his practice.

All objects © Ettore Sottsass, images courtesy The Met Breuer


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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 made available 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 | Nasreen Mohamedi Meets Taca Sui in New York

Friday, March 18th, 2016

Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled, c 1975
Ink and graphite on paper
Sikander and Hydari Collection



Nasreen Mohamedi
The Met Breuer
NYC | USA
18 March > 5 June 2016

+

Taca Sui: Steles – Huang Yi Project
Chambers Fine Art
NYC | USA
31 March > 28 May 2016



Taca Sui, Tomb of Prince Lu #2, 2015
Archival pigment print on baryta paper



One relatively young and having established his reputation fairly recently, the other being afforded posthumous, retrospective acclaim, parallels, contrasts and coincidences exist between their respective work and the life stories of two Asian artists of different generations, who almost certainly never met, but have shows opening in New York.

Indian modernist Nasreen Mohamedi (1937–1990) was brought up in Mumbai, often, like New York, described with the epithet ‘the city that never sleeps’. Fine art photographer, Taca Sui was born in Qingdao, like New York, albeit smaller, a port city of skyscrapers. In the mid-1950s, Mohamedi would travel to London to study at Central Saint Martin’s School of Art, while having attended the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 2003, Taca went to the United States to continue his studies in 2005.

Taca Sui, Pagoda of Six Harmonies, 2015
Archival pigment print on baryta paper



Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled, c 1975
Ink and graphite on paper
Sikander and Hydari Collection



The work of both artists is essentially monochrome, but whereas painter, photographer and draughtswoman Mohamedi, influenced by Russian suprematist Kazimir Malevich – a founding father of abstract art – among others, made non-representational paintings, semi-abstract photographs and drawings that bear no relation to Indian traditional art, Taca, who left college to assist American abstract expressionist painter Ronnie Landfield – well-known for his use of vibrant colour –produces work that is strongly rooted in China’s landscape, his images relate to geographic locations suggested in classical Chinese literature and are tied to the history, myths and religious traditions of ancient Han culture.

The calmness of mood in Taca’s work, and the reduction of the elements that make up each image, brings to mind Japanese minimalist Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photography, but the artists’ approach to and treatment of respective subject matter is entirely dissimilar. More redolent of the Italian futurist architect Antonio Sant’Elia’s drawings, Mohamedi’s graphic work has drawn comparisons with that of minimalist sculptor Carl Andre. It would be a mistake to label either Mohamedi or Taca as minimalist.

Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled, c 1972
Gelatin silver print
Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi



Taca Sui, Feilai Peak, 2015
Archival pigment print on baryta paper



On the road to success: their work transformed by their experiences abroad, neither artist completely abandoned their own country for life in the west. Nasreen Mohamedi, having worked for a time in Europe and after spending time in Bahrain, travelled extensively through India, Iran and Turkey, visiting Japan and the USA, before returning to India in the early 1970s to teach in the Faculty of Fine Arts at MS University in Baroda (now Vadodara), while Taca Sui is now based in both Beijing and New York.

Joined in spirit, located in disparate areas of New York, Nasreen Mohamedi opens today at Madison Avenue’s The Met Breuer on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, while Taca Sui: Steles – Huang Yi Project starts in two weeks’ time at Chambers Fine Art in Chelsea, afterwards the shows run concurrently.

All Nasreen Mohamedi images courtesy The Met Breuer
All Taca Sui images courtesy Chambers Fine Art


Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us that we think might interest you.

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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