“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.“
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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