Ettore Sottsass’ late furniture for Gallery Mourmans liberated the artist from the ordinary constraints of the market and quantity. The collaboration gave him license to pursue the vast poetic and sculptural potential of perhaps his favorite of all design archetypes, the Cabinet.
As with Cabinet No. 56 (2003) these pieces read as prototypes, concepts and sculpture. Each cabinet in this series is a study in materials, structure, form, color, and visual and sculptural effects — homages to his friends and design masters.
Photographed in The Met Breuer in NYC as part of the 2017 – 2018 Exhibit, Ettore Sottsass: Design Radical.
The research laboratory called Oeuffice was estalished by Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte and Jakub Zak to develop innovative objects in limited editions. The designers met in Milan after studying in their native Canada and attending university in Berlin. Like Ettore Sottsass, they share a vision of a contemporary utopia in which they refashion architectural design on a domestic scale. The Ziggurat, an iconic architectural form that Sottsass revered, provided inspiration for this stack of Wooden Storage Boxes inlaid with acrylic and solid stained wood (2012). The ziggurat’s form and masterful wood inlays originate in the Near East and were executed by Lebanese artists specialized in the technique.
Born in Tokyo in 1934, Shiro Kuramata studied at the city’s polytechnic high school and Kuwsawa Design School. He revolutionized design in postwar Japan by considering the relationship between form and function, adhering to minimalist ideas but embracing surrealism as well. During the 1970s and 1980s, Kuramata began to use new technologies and industrial materials. He was inspired by Ettore Sottsass and joined the Memphis Group at its founding in 1981.
Kyoto Table, Detail
The Kyoto Table (1983) is an example Kuramata’s innovative use of concrete and glass to create minimalist form with surface interest. Kuramata’s furniture and interiors have been influential both is his native country and abroad.
Shiro Kuramata (1934 – 1991) a member of The Memphis Group and among the most innovative designers of the late twentieth century, was fascinated by the visual possibilities of acrylic. The artist stated that his ideal objective was to see objects floating in air. Named for the Wunderkammern owned by Renaissance princes that displayed natural and man-made curiosities, Cabinet De Curiosité (1988) offers the magical impression of suspending its contents in midair. Kuramata explored the phenomenological effects of acrylic — light and lightness, invisibility and reflectivity, weight and weightlessness – and the material has become the poetic signature of his work. Kuramata used the term Neiro, or “sound-color,” to describe the synesthetic effect that acrylic has it both its physical presence and the spectral color-shadows it casts as light passes through it. Its prismatic luminosity changes with light and viewpoint, exploiting the optical effects of the material. Shown here alongside Flower Vase #3 (1989).
Donald Judd (1928 – 1994) created his first vertical Stack Sculpture in 1965. Coincidentally, this was just one year before furniture designer Ettore Sottsass designed his Superebox cabinet series. At the time, Sottsass claimed to have been inspired from the radical materials and construction of Parisian fashion, but he late wrote about Judd and even named a table in homage to him.
Untitled Stack Sculpture (1970) Detail
Sottsass and Judd each explored Minimalism and the effect of objects on their environment, but from strikingly different vantage points
Judd’s sculptures use the language and materials of serial production and functionalist design, while Sottsass created functional objects with the aspiration of minimalist sculpture.
Cross-shaped and studded with golden dots, Ettore Sottsass’ Yellow Furniture reads as an homage to Otto Wagner’s Steinhof Church, which is also cruciform in plan and features golden dots as the leitmotif. Both Yellow Furniture and the Steinhof Church transfer religious concepts into material form, specifically the spiritual association in Christian iconography of gold as a material and symbol of the heavens. Consistent with Christian ideals, Sottsass intended this piece for production by Indian craftsman as a way of addressing the poverty he witnessed during his travels.
Otto Wagner Steinhof Church Photos and Plan Drawings
Photographed in the Met Breuer in NYC. as part of the Exhibit, Ettore Sottsass: Design Radical.
Tower Furniture for the House with the Little Chinese Girl, Mario Tchou Residence, Milan (All Photos By Gail)
Ettore Sottsass (1917 – 2007) designed the interiors of Mario Tchou’s Milan apartment and named the project for Tchou’s daughter, who captured his heart as she attempted to scale the Tower. The latticework, dowels and cubic proportions suggest the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement, the Wiener Werkstatte, and the Bauhaus.