“Pieces from a Larger Puzzle,” an exhibition at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura—a 1950s building in Westwood designed by Robert Alexander, Richard Neutra’s partner—of Italian artist, architect and designer Gaetano Pesce’s work, on display through August 31, spans more than 40 years and covers his myriad designs, from his jiggly poured polyurethane resin vases to his famous womblike La Mamma chairs of expanded polyurethane foam with a self-inflating core. The student of architect Carlo Scarpa, Pesce, who was born in Italy and is based in New York, is known for his innovative and extensive use of resin and plastic, about which he has said, “The materials of the future for me are flexible, translucent, elastic and colorful.” Among the mix of joyfully presented objects of these materials, inscribed on the back wall of the gallery space, was another Pesce allusion to things to come: “The future is a very beautiful creature…the past is not.”
Two vases from Gaetano’s studio, Fish Design, open the exhibition, which was curated by Francesca Valente, the Istituto director and coordinator; John Geresi, banker and design devotee; and Peter Loughrey, director of Los Angeles Modern Auctions.
The Up 5 and Up 6 chair and ottoman, of expanded polyurethane foam, synthetic jersey and a self-inflating core, are tethered together by a small rope. The main chair is otherwise known as La Donna or La Mamma, which Pesce says is open to interpretation but for him relates to the ball and chain of burdens placed upon women. “I believe the future is feminine,” he told exhibition visitors in reference to this design. The set has a cameo in Diamonds Are Forever as the starting point for a hot pants–clad gymnast henchwoman in her battle against James Bond in the living room of John Lautner’s Elrod House in Palm Springs.
Nobody’s Chair, otherwise known as the Nobody’s Perfect chair, was designed in 2002 and created from poured polyurethane and plastic fasteners.
Pesce’s vases, like his poured polyurethane and resin Monumental Experimental vase from 1997, are the core of the Fish Design studio.
The Up 7 was designed in 1969 of self-skinning molded polyurethane foam.
The folding Umbrella chair, a highly idealistic and still-functional design from 1994.
Dalila Tre chair, 1980, of molded polyurethane with epoxy resin.
The current production model of the I Feltri chair, a 1985 design evoking both the artist Joseph Beuys’ use of felt, and Japanese origami.
Pratt student Jonathan Gillen spent over 70 hours weaving together laminate chips to create the seating sling of Wilson Primitive, his submission for Wilsonart's 2010 student design competition.
A ladder and delicately balanced ply became the setting for an array of Pesce’s vase designs, mostly from the 1990s.
Pesce’s sketches for this Greene Street chair prototype, from 1984, reveal a self-portrait behind the “face” of the chair design.
Amazonia vase, 1996, in gold.
With permission from the lender, visitors were invited to “please touch” this polyurethane resin vase.
Pesce with visitors at the opening. When once told he was thought to be a revolutionary for his industrial designs that straddle the categories of functional and artistic, he said, “I do not consider myself a revolutionary. I consider myself innovative.”
The Istituto Italiano di Cultura, near UCLA in Westwood, was designed in the 1950s by Robert Alexander, Richard Neutra’s partner.