To celebrate the opening of Saturated: The Allure and Science of Color, Object of the Day this month will feature colorful objects from the exhibition. This post was originally published November 8, 2012.
Visionary, prophetic, subversive, and marginal all describe the Italian architect and designer, Gaetano Pesce, whose innovative experiments with materials and production methods transform common industrial materials into expressive shapes for objects, furniture, and interiors. For Pesce, designing is not so much about form or aesthetics as it is about the discovery of new materials and technological processes. Like Marcel Duchamp, he believes industrial objects convey the strongest statements about our time and our culture.
Pesce is partial to thermosetting plastics, such as resins, urethane foams, and unsaturated polyesters, which are ideal for mass production. These materials can be worked simply and by hand and do not require sophisticated, costly equipment for processing. The hallmarks of mass production are standardization, uniformity, and simplification. Yet, Pesce strives for non-uniformity within production. He celebrates diversity by “programming” irregularities into designs, incorporating imperfections, the unevenness of material, and inconsistencies that result from the manufacturing process. Using the same mold repeatedly, he varies the colors, densities, and heating time. A champion of mass-customization, he predicts, “the third industrial revolution will embody a return to the individuality that marks small-scale production.”
Pesce’s playful Nobody’s Perfect chair, I Separabili, embodies diversity within standardization. Separabili (Italian for “drops”) references the liquid resin that is poured and hardened into the furniture’s components, which are later assembled with pegs. Following simple guidelines, a worker pours pigmented resin into a mold to achieve a random quantity of material and mix of colors. The human element is critical and ensures that each piece is unique. The imperfections that occur from the fabrication process are transformed into interesting details within the material—the “flawed” becomes an essential element of differentiation.
Pesce, the provocateur, may work on the periphery, but he always seeks ways to nourish a “poetic life.”
This object will be on view in Saturated: The Allure and Science of Color beginning May 11, 2018.
Cara McCarty is the Curatorial Director at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.