Veterans Mari, Pesce highlight different approaches
By Mark Curtis
Enzo Mari and Gaetano Pesce are living legends of Italian design with similar reputations for uncompromising work, though the results of their work could not be more different. While Mari has always concerned himself with functional designs that can reveal an inner poetry, Pesce has never shied away from flamboyant design gestures. Both designers have been internationally acclaimed since the 1960s and the work of Mari and Pesce is included in prominent design museum collections around the world.
Mari, 80, is perhaps best known for his home accessory designs for Milan manufacturer Danese. The designer’s Sedici Animali children’s puzzle, consisting of 16 interlocking animal figurines, helped to establish his career in the late 1950s and Mari followed up with other now-classic Danese products such as the Timor desk calendar (inspired by railway signage) and the 1970 In Attesa waste basket, a good example of Mari’s career-long goal of reducing an object to its essence while still retaining a distinctive form.
As Mari puts it, “If a form is the only possible form, then the object ‘is’. If the form ‘seems,’ then the wrong path has been taken.”
In 2010, Finnish furniture manufacturer Artek re-released Mari’s Sedia 1, a 1974 chair design that was more of a do-it-yourself kit for consumers, consisting of pine boards and assembly instructions. The chair design in part reflects Mari’s belief that design does not have to be left to professionals only.
Reportedly tough on himself and even tougher on other designers, Mari nevertheless reveals a charming side when he admits that design to him is like “painting blindfolded in a room with no windows on a moonless night.”
Italian publisher Mondadori recently released a new book about Mari’s designs.
Unlike Mari’s minimalist approach, the designs of Pesce have been marked by an often unique flamboyance. Now 73 years old, Pesce first gained attention in the late 1960s for his Up chair, a foam seating design that expanded right out of its packing material. Observers thought the chair and ottoman represented a mother and child, but Pesce intended the design as a portrayal of a woman tied to a ball and chain and a call for female rights in an era when such issues were beginning to gain momentum.
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