Every now and again, a rare wonderful opportunity
presents itself – and there is really no other
option but to take it and feel well pleased.
Such was my response to attending
an interview with the
world renown and celebrated designer/architect
Held at the famed Barbican Centre, London
with Tony Chambers, editor-in-chief of Wallpaper magazine
who spoke wtih Signor Pesce about
his designs and his design philosophy.
Signor Pesce was born and educated in Italy.
(image from padovacultura.padovanet.it):
He has been a force in the design world for over forty years –
his work is on permanent display at many of the world’s
leading museums: the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and
Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York to cite but a couple.
I am intrigued by the Gaetano Pesce piece
La Mamma/Donna armchair and footrest, 1969 –
currently on display at the exhibition
Pop Art Design
Barbican Art Gallery, London.
(image from barbican.co.uk):
La Mamma/Donna armchair and footrest by Gaetano Pesce
The large foam chair envelopes the body,
offering a sense of security, a feel of comfort –
with deep curves and deep-set seat,
an invitation to stroke and to nestle:
a chair meant to be reminiscent of
women’s nurturing qualities.
Attached by a thin chord to the chair is the footrest:
a ball constructed of the same material and colour
symbolises a state of imprisonment (ball and chain):
a state of unwilling captivity.
La Mamma/Donna is a chair which conjures up
imagery of women who at the time (1960s),
seemed doomed to be soley anchored in the home.
In contemplating the message(s) of this specific chair/footrest,
I often wondered about the general design mission of
The evening at the Barbican afforded me the occasion
to discover more about the man and his creations.
Gaetano Pesce is a most witty, personable and engaging speaker.
As Tony Chambers relaxed into a Mamma/Donna chair
Signor Pesce settled into another of his designs
-high backed chair,
which looked equally comfortable.
The comfort factor seems priority in a Pesce piece.
The Mamma/Donna chair is exemplar of the Pesce
definition of furniture musts:
“fun, strong, and with a message.”
The intended statement for the Mamma/Donna chair:
Many of Signor Pesce’s pieces offer
strong socio-political points.
The chair is delivered ‘flat packed’.
As it is made entirely of foam, it is relatively easy to
squeeze it into a compact container.
Upon opening, it springs into shape –
no assembly required.
Signor Pesce spoke passionately on art as innovation:
use of new materials, techniques, technology –
“there is no limit for creativity” ,
each design is an unique individual, hence
design possibilities are infinite.
He is spirited in encouraging creatives to
“fight the idea of standardisation” and to
“express life, express diversity”
During his tenure as lecturer at Cooper Union, NY
he challenged his students to first create – concept,
then, as natural sequence – shape.
Concept is “psychological and sentiments”;
it is the fusing of the intellectual and
the emotional as integral to the design process.
Once this is satisfied, the shape of the piece can evolve –
as definition of the concept.
Signor Pesce expressed his views on duality in design.
He believes objects have a “double function”:
“the practical and the beautiful”
I was reminded of the intended use of
Renaissance Italian majolica (glazed ceramic-ware)
beautifully crafted/decorated utilitarian pieces.
(image from metmuseum.org):
pharmacy jar (1515) – Siena, Italy
Examples of Signor Pesce’s idea of design duality:
are his six water tables.
The tables tops showcase various bodies of water:
lakes, lagoon, ponds, oceans, rivers … puddles
The realism of imagery is almost extra-dimensional:
positioning a viewer in a space perspective
of experiencing a surreal mini-world
while remaining in the world actually occupied.
(images from design boom):
Customisation is another detected point on the Pesce design radar.
In 2010, he created the Fontessa shoe.
(image from vogue.it):
the Fontessa shoe
The Fontessa shoe is made of plastic discs, which the user
can cut out and arrange to personalise the footwear.
This design approach allows for a
“relationship with the product” – an intimacy.
On the topic of architectural structures, Signor Pesce laments.
He suggests sadly, that some modern structures
are simply “real estate”; just “buildings, not architecture” .
Signor Pesce defines architecture in one word: “innovation”
anything else is simply a building, a copy of what’s been done.
While animatedly chatting, reminiscing, informing, laughing –
his phone rings.
Does he ignore it?
Does he answer it?
You guessed it!
He stops mid-sentence, checks the caller id and speaks –
“Pronto, yes, yes … I’ll call you later. I have a lot of
people in front of me.”
Everyone smiled, many laughed aloud in good humour
and he simply continued where he left off.
Gaetano Pesce’s designs are in his image:
amusing, inventive, functional, progressive,
warm, engaging, contemplative:
the man is his art
his art is the man.
View the Mamma/Donna chair and footstool
by Gaetano Pesce
at the exhibition: Pop Art Design
until 9 February 2014
Barbican Art Gallery, London