A Resin to Love

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By Sara Carpenter
A long overdue solo show for designer, architect, and artist Gaetano Pesce opened last week at Fred Torres Collaborations in Chelsea, New York. Despite his work being shown in galleries and museums the world over and receiving numerous high-profile awards in architecture and design throughout his career, a solo New York exhibition has eclipsed him until now. It would be hard to contain Mr. Pesce to one label as his work often treads the line between piece of art and work of design. The show, titled L’Abbraccio (the Embrace), narrows his body of work down to define Gaetano Pesce, the artist.

Curated by Fred Torres, the show focuses on pieces with love and empathy at their core. An emblematic Pesce piece displaying this is the show’s namesake, L’Abbraccio. His imaginative pieces shun abstraction in favor of expressiveness and the maquette cabinet does an exemplary job of showing this. Formed by two people caught mid-embrace, Pesce noted that "cabinets are usually dark, I wanted to make them positive." This optimism is echoed throughout much of his work. He says some pieces "need to have a positive feeling because reality is not easy."

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The Rag Chair is made from fabric found on the street. 1970. Rags and natural rubber 0.68’ x 0.91’ x 0.7’. Photo courtesy of Gaetano Pesce.

A rare (and somewhat darker) look at Mr. Pesce’s contribution to the 1972 MoMA exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape can also be had. Highly detailed drawings Habitat for Two and Commune for Twelve depict a failed society forced to take sanctuary underground in the year 2000. At the center of the room, a 1:10 scale maquette of the subversive dwelling anchors the drawings. A video of imagined life in the society is on display and the three mediums create a comprehensive view into an imagined subterranean future (now past) for the visitor.

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A look inside L’Abbraccio. 2009. Wood, papier-mâché, and metal. Gaetano Vesce H 1.5’ x W 0.9’ x D 0.4’ maquette. Photo by John Rohrer.

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Gaetano Pesce says “architecture can express anything.” Depicted here is his entry for the World Trade Center Memorial. 2013. Urethane resin, copper hinges, lacquered wood base 8’ x 3.25’ x 1.20’ 2. Photo by Sebastian Piras.

The WTC Cabinet, a representation of his entry for the World Trade Center Memorial is also on display. Made of a colorful assortment of resin (a signature Pesce material) the piece consists of two functional cabinets joined by a heart. Indicative of tremendous loss, the cabinet manages to convey hopefulness through its color, form, and utility.

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L’Abbraccio, 2009. Wood, papier-maches, and metal. H 1.5’ x W 0.9’ x D 0.4’ maquette. Photo by John Rohrer.

Despite a career spanning four decades, Mr. Pesce isn’t short on innovation. His progressive view keeps him on the hunt for new materials today. "We are creating now," he says, "so why would we use materials from the past?" He is currently seeking a material with cloud-like qualities.

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Oh Italy! Lamp, 1979. 1 of 4 oil painting on paper. Image provided by Gaetano Pesce.

The show runs through May 25th. More information can be found here.

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Gaetano Pesce. Photo provided by Gaetano Pesce.

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Sketch for a modular sofa, 1986. pastel and color crayon on paper 4.91’ x 0.91’ x 0.7’. Photo courtesy of Gaetano Pesce.

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Italy on the Cross, 2010. Urethane resin, wood and stones. 4.6’ x 4.5’ x 4.5’ maquette. Photo courtesy of Gaetano Pesce.