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Points of Reference: Design history / Get excited

The tingling sensation of making connections in design history.

Martine Bedin (for Memphis), Super lamp prototype, 1981. Painted metal with lighting components. // Source: vam.ac.uk

Martine Bedin (for Memphis), Super lamp prototype, 1981. Painted metal with lighting components. // Source: vam.ac.uk

Martine Bedine’s classic Super Lamp from has been floating my boat lately. Maybe because making furniture has been part of my recent projects, or this object expresses so much exuberance, or I’ve been working in a design museum. Or maybe because it’s just super cute. Buy one, or just check out the production model’s wheels, which differ from the prototype pictured above, at the Memphis Milano store.

The Memphis design movement isn’t from Tennessee—it was a group of Italian designers working in the 1980s. Designer Ettorre Sottsass (1917-2007) founded the movement when he convened a meeting (during which a song about Memphis played, hence the name). Memphis’ most iconic creation might be Sottsass’ Carlton room divider. It’s sort of a slap in the faces of both classical and modern definitions of taste and design.

"Carlton" room divider, 1981 Ettore Sottsass (Italian, born Austria, 1917), Designer; Memphis s.r.l., Manufacturer Wood, plastic laminate; 76 3/4 x 74 3/4 x 15 3/4 in. (194.9 x 189.9 x 40 cm) // Source: metmuseum.org.

Ettorre Sottsass, Carlton room divider, 1981; Manufactured by Memphis s.r.l., Wood, plastic laminate; 76 3/4 x 74 3/4 x 15 3/4 in. // Source: metmuseum.org.

But I was even more impressed to learn that Sottsass also contributed another icon to design history: the red Valentine typewriter, which he co-designed for Olivetti:

Ettore Sottsass, Jr., Perry A. King, Olivetti Manufacturing Company, manufacturer,  Valentine Portable Typewriter and Case, 1969, Plastic, rubber and metal, 4 x 12 7/8 x 12 7/8 inches // Source: risdmuseum.org

Ettore Sottsass, Jr., Perry A. King, Olivetti Manufacturing Company, manufacturer,
Valentine Portable Typewriter and Case, 1969, Plastic, rubber and metal, 4 x 12 7/8 x 12 7/8 inches // Source: risdmuseum.org

If you ever have a chance to visit an exhibition of Olivetti posters, go! I saw a great introduction to Olivetti’s design influence years ago, and it still sticks with me.

Get Excited:

Here’s what else has me looking up lately:

Harvester Arts’ new website. It’s looking great. You can see photos of projects by local artists exhibited in September made in response to my residency project in April/May. Excited to see their 2016 artist in residence line-up!

Temporary Art Review’s recent posts reporting on and following Common Field‘s Hand in Glove conference—connecting “connecting contemporary, experimental, noncommercial arts organizations.” Sarrita Hunn’s essay, “Artists for Artists’ Sake” is especially recommended [great points. Disclosure: it’s illustrated by Hunn’s activity sheet for Make Things (Happen)].

(And, putting ideas into action, learn more about Portland ‘Pataphysical Society at Temporary Art Review’s profile!)

I just received “Mobile Autonomy—Exercises In Artists’ Self-organization” from the Netherlands; looking forward to digging in deeper and getting more clarity. (The first chapter is an interview with Thomas Hirschhorn, the second is something like his manifesto. My understanding of his projects are slightly improved, though I found his responses evasive and his writing roundabout.)

N. Dockx, P. Gielen, Mobile Autonomy - Exercises In Artists' Self-organization (Valiz), 2015

N. Dockx, P. Gielen, Mobile Autonomy – Exercises In Artists’ Self-organization (Valiz), 2015

Equity Gallery is open. It’s the exhibition space of the NY Artist’s Equity Association, an organization founded in 1947 by artists, for artists. Founding members include Ben Shahn, and Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, whose endowment makes the new gallery possible. In thinking about artist’s empowerment, it’s amazing to see the legacy of past progressive movements, which can feel so distant, continue on today.

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