DEC 14, 2014 - JAN 18, 2015


“It is no coin­ci­dence that the peo­ple who work for Mem­phis don’t pur­sue a meta­physic aes­thetic idea or an absolute of any kind, much less eter­nity. Today every­thing one does is con­sumed. [Mem­phis] is ded­i­cated to life, not to eter­nity.“
–Ettore Sottsass

Joe Shef­tel along with Rudy Weis­senberg is pleased to announce The Mem­phis Group, an exhi­bi­tion of fur­ni­ture and light­ing by Ital­ian designer Ettore Sottsass along­side works by the Mem­phis group. The part­ner exhi­bi­tion of The Mem­phis Group is on view at Koenig & Clin­ton Gallery, and runs con­cur­rently from Decem­ber 18, 2014 to Jan­u­ary 31, 2015.

This gallery’s pre­sen­ta­tion focuses on Sottsass’ pro­duc­tive life, before, dur­ing and after his years with Mem­phis.

Sottsass began to gain inter­na­tional recog­ni­tion as a mem­ber of Stu­dio Alchymia, a band of architect-designers who forged an alter­na­tive to Mod­ernism in the late-1970s, “Il Nuovo Design.” Stu­dio Alchymia reacted to mass pro­duc­tion with works that fused arts-and-crafts work­man­ship with Design-age aes­thet­ics, and rejected the notion that inte­rior design should sub­mit to con­ven­tional modes of mar­ketabil­ity and visual hier­ar­chy. Mem­phis absorbed and extended these con­cerns, and made full use of mass pro­duc­tion tech­niques.

Fol­low­ing its debut at the Milan Fur­ni­ture Fair in 1981, the Mem­phis group grew to include numer­ous artists, design­ers, and archi­tects. This exhi­bi­tion also spot­lights a small sliver of Mem­phis’ numer­ous asso­ciates; works on view also fea­ture Shiro Kura­mata and George Sow­den. Their emblem­atic fur­ni­ture and light­ing designs announce and amplify the collective’s greater irrev­er­ent ethos, a chal­lenge to Mod­ernist tenets of good taste and effi­cacy.

Pil­lars of Mem­phis design include uncon­ven­tional com­bi­na­tions of materials—such as slabs of mar­ble along­side fiber­glass and laminates—and his­toric forms embell­ished with kitsch pat­terns and gaudy col­ors. Joy­ful, witty, and rebel­lious, Mem­phis forms do not fol­low func­tion. Instead, Mem­phis infil­trates the domes­tic space with stub­born archi­tec­tural struc­tures that ques­tion the roles of com­fort and prac­ti­cal­ity in inte­rior design. And while Mem­phis may be con­sid­ered Post­mod­ern because of its eclec­tic blend­ing of his­toric styles, it was also inter­na­tional in ori­gin and reach, and keenly con­sid­ered diverse cul­tural his­to­ries.

Fol­low­ing his years with the Mem­phis Group, Sottsass went on to con­tinue to refine his mate­r­ial lan­guage as a sculp­tor, fur­ni­ture and light­ing designer and archi­tect. Three decades on, Mem­phis and Sottsass con­tinue to influ­ence the visual lan­guage of design­ers and artists work­ing today pro­vid­ing us with a good moment to begin rein­ves­ti­gat­ing the spe­cific his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural ref­er­ences that Sottsass and Mem­phis embraced, in a man­ner that was ahead of their time.

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