The solo exhibition, one of the most representative Italian designers, Gaetano Pesce in Shenzhen
Shenzhen, the Chinese city of Design, hosted the first solo exhibition, in Asia, of one of the most representative Italian designers, Gaetano Pesce.
Organized by the Design Society and the Gaetano Pesce Office, the exhibition Nobody’s Perfect has been presented at the Sea World Culture and Arts Center (SWCAC).
Born in 1939, Gaetano Pesce's creative practice spans the fields of art, design and architecture for more than 50 years.
This exhibition made me think about many contemporary issues critical to the discipline of design, like, for instance, the debate around materiality and globalization, the individuality of the objects against the anonymous mass production, the passion at the centre of the creative activity which pushes towards a relentless experimentation and search for new meanings.
The key words of Gaetano Pesce’s design philosophy is, in fact, experiment, personality, and optimism, which he applies to his projects through the lens of humour and the practice of a high-end craft-specialization. The main aspect of his design remains, through time, the power of materiality. Through the design he aims at sparking conversation. Pesce pushes the boundaries between art and design to deliver controversial and thought-provoking pieces.
Positioned in the framework of our time, ruled by mass production, minimalism, and hyper functional products, he shows a unique approach, presenting design and art in general as a possibility to go beyond the limits of reality, thanks to imagination, innovation, and playfulness.
He is often presented as an alchemist of our times, since he handles materials properties in very versatile ways, where poor and popular materials, such as plastic, have unexpected applications and offer an experience that engages all the senses.
For instance, his idea for the Senza Fine Unica series experiments new ways to apply the technique of continuous extrusion molding of silicon rubber. Pesce continued to extrude silicone rubber through machine until the shape has reached his satisfactory, in the moment. Due to the irreversibility of the process of extrusion, the creation is meant to be non-replicable. Pesce believed that it is unpromising for the products to be self-satisfied and stand still. Every company should devote part of its resources to the development of new design languages and manufacturing processes.
The designer not only plays with materials and processes, but he also explores functional features to be improved, without neglecting the playful dimension. For example, the Umbrella chair only weighs seven pounds, thanks to the use of new materials and innovative folding principles. When folded, it can be turned into a cane. A multifunctional plastic panel will open automatically at the push of a button; it becomes a chair when placing on the ground and an umbrella when raising in the air.
The Chandelier series is a hard coloured resin exploration about the randomness in the shaping process which opens a wide range of possibilities in terms of sizes, shapes, and light effects.
Gaetano Pesce is also a pioneer in the field of architecture. His project Organic Building, 1989-1993, is the world’s first vertical garden and it became the city symbol of Osaka, in Japan. The red concrete façade of the building is covered with water tubular containers with fiberglass flowerpots. The entire building uses 132 native plants and trees and is irrigated by a computer-controlled pipeline system. The surface of the building is covered by plants. It can effectively alleviate the heat island effect in the city.
The high degree of originality and innovation of his design is demonstrated also in the project Maison Des Enfants, in Paris. He took children’s home as the theme of his design. In the architectural planning, the form of running children is used to express the characteristics of youth and freedom. He used materials which were not popular and mature at that time, such as plastic, foam, rubber, etc. The building avoids the use of any geometric shapes to create a form that is detached from tradition and fully stimulates the potential of children as participants.
Some of his last creations push forward his conceptual, artistic, and provocative approach to design. The Portaitratti Chair is a 4.5-meter-high portrait chair depicting 20 coloured faces on the surface, expressing Pesce’s yearning for globalization that people of different colours can sit in the same chair and communicating each other.
The diversity of the materials he uses and the way he mixes and experiment with them is always inspired to social and cultural issues of our time, and it represents an excuse to speak about them. Curdi, is both a coffee table and a cabinet realised with an innovative materials process: a mix of resin with clay balls, which not only reduces the weight of the entire table, but also adds a new texture to the surface of the work. There are six corners in this table, and each of them represents a minority ethnic group in a Middle Eastern country, expressing Pesce’s attention for this special group of people.
One of the most emblematic pieces is Nobody’s perfect Chair, a series of works which marks the formation of Pesce’s design concept of “diversity and non-repetition”. With the support of assistants, the designer pours the colored resin into two hand-cast molds, and after demolding, the two resin parts are assembled. Finally, each chair has its own quantities and transparencies. In contrast to the industrial production, this new method of production incorporates the creativity of the operator, and the “flaws” left on finished piece also as proof of the concept that nobody’s perfect.
Walking through this exhibition has been an opportunity to discover, “re-discover” and reflect.
It recalled me the optimism and playfulness which is at the centre of Pesce’s work, which are aspects we are maybe neglecting in the contemporary discourse around design and that we may need in this time of uncertainty, instability, and adversity. He reminds us to play and to use our imagination to rethink our present and to invent colorful futures.