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Gaetano Pesce: Forever Young

For Gaetano Pesce, 2016 was a good year. TLmag reflects on the Italian maestro’s latest work, which offers a romantic antidote for our troubled times.

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Text by Nadine Botha

Just a few years shy of 80, Italian architect and designer Gaetano Pesce shows no signs of slowing down. In the second half of last year alone he participated in the David Gill Gallery exhibition Masters of Design at London Design Week; unveiled a new public sculpture and retrospective at Museo del Novecento in Florence; and was the star of the show at Design Miami, with exhibitions at Salon 94 and Galleria Ca’ d’Oro, just days after his retrospective at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.

Barely skipping a beat, a number of his works are also included in the new Friedman Benda exhibition Static, curated by Glenn Adamson and opening on January 9, 2017. The exhibition’s premise is that the “1980s was an era of comprehensive breakdown in established historical trajectories” and explores the impact on design up until the present day. Pesce’s iconic Pratt Chair from 1984 is included, one of his earliest works with a face, which has become a signature of his cabinets and lights.

“The cabinets, they talk, but they talk because their shape and their form is a form to express things,” says Pesce about his work’s animated countenances. Working within a humanistic philosophy, Pesce has been blurring the boundaries between art and design since the 1960s. Often figurative and even political, his work is a counter against mass production and commodification – like his new sculpture in Florence that is inspired by the current plight of women in society. With his bright colours and lighthearted tone, however, his work offers a new way of engaging with our current times. The environment is iconified in his series of water tables shown at David Gill Gallery, and the resin tree vases that were shown at Salon 94 as well as in a bespoke installation at The Setai hotel during Design Miami.

“The Tree Vase Series is a novelty to me. The tree is alive, it moves under the force of the breeze, it is always different and it is a miracle of nature,” Pesce explains. “All this has inspired me to turn it into a type of work that is very dear to me, the ‘maternal womb vase’. I love to create vases shaped as trees with elastic materials resembling the movement of the trees when touched by the wind.”

A humanist, and romantic to boot, Gaetano Pesce remains a design treasure for our troubled times.

Gaetano Pesce wearing his Yohji Yamamoto hat at his SoHo studio, New York City May 2014. Photo: Mark O'Flaherty.
Gaetano Pesce wearing his Yohji Yamamoto hat at his SoHo studio, New York City May 2014. Photo: Mark O'Flaherty.
Toscana Vase (2015)
Toscana Vase (2015)
Tree Vase Small (2015)
Tree Vase Small (2015)
Tree Vase Big (2015)
Tree Vase Big (2015)
Tree Vase Medium (2015)
Tree Vase Medium (2015)
Tree Vase XXL installation at The Setai hotel during Design Miami. Photo: Manny Hernandez
Tree Vase XXL installation at The Setai hotel during Design Miami. Photo: Manny Hernandez
Tree Vase XXL installation at The Setai hotel during Design Miami. Photo: Manny Hernandez
Tree Vase XXL installation at The Setai hotel during Design Miami. Photo: Manny Hernandez
Salon 94 installation view during Design Miami. Photo: James Harris
Salon 94 installation view during Design Miami. Photo: James Harris
Salon 94 installation view during Design Miami. Photo: James Harris
Salon 94 installation view during Design Miami. Photo: James Harris
Lake Table (2012) at David Gill Gallery.
Lake Table (2012) at David Gill Gallery.
River Table (2012) at David Gill Gallery.
River Table (2012) at David Gill Gallery.
Betrayed Majesty exhibition installation view at Museo del Novecento, Florence. Photo: Gobbetto
Betrayed Majesty exhibition installation view at Museo del Novecento, Florence. Photo: Gobbetto
“Maestà tradita” (or Majesty Betrayed) sculpture in piazza Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Photo: Gobbetto
“Maestà tradita” (or Majesty Betrayed) sculpture in piazza Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Photo: Gobbetto
Vase With Hair (2015) at Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Sebastian Piras/Gaetano Pesce.
Vase With Hair (2015) at Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Sebastian Piras/Gaetano Pesce.
Installation view of Gaetano Pesce’s Cast-Resin Objects at Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.
Installation view of Gaetano Pesce’s Cast-Resin Objects at Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.
Installation view of Gaetano Pesce’s Cast-Resin Objects at Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.
Installation view of Gaetano Pesce’s Cast-Resin Objects at Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.
Felt Cabinet in Static at Friedman Benda gallery from 9 January 2016.
Felt Cabinet in Static at Friedman Benda gallery from 9 January 2016.
Pratt Chair (1984) in Static at Friedman Benda gallery from 9 January 2016.
Pratt Chair (1984) in Static at Friedman Benda gallery from 9 January 2016.
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