Friday, March 7, 2008

ETTORE SOTTSASS - No Fear of Color

The "Valentine" Portable Olivetti - 1969

The Wolf House (1987-89) Ridgeway Colorado
For Photographer, Daniel Wolf

The Wolf House (1987-89) Ridgeway, Colorado
For Photographer, Daniel Wolf

Cabinet, Ettore Sottsass

Ettore Sottsass, Italian Architect and designer, died at the age of 90 on January 1 of this year. While others of his age were thinking about retiring, Sottsass founded the renowned, postmodern "Memphis" movement in Milan, Italy in 1981---an explosion of color and design energy.

These thoughts from his obituary:

"Memphis was a joyous, entirely unbossy manifesto for design as an emotional expression. It was also an attempt to bite the hand that fed it by gently satirising designers. Design is, in the end, about making us want to buy more things, and Sottsass, at heart always deeply subversive, was highly ambivalent about that..."

"...We live in a world which values the useless ahead of the useful, which celebrates art, untainted by the least hint of utility, above the ingenuity of design that is burdened by function, and creates a cultural hierarchy to match. It was perhaps the greatest achievement of Sottsass's long and remarkable career that he made this distinction irrelevant. He was not interested in making objects that sell because they look pretty or seductive or precious. What he wanted to do was to find ways to give everyday objects some sort of meaning. He wanted to show that they are not just banal clutter, but are shaped by creative intelligence and an understanding both of how they are used, and how they are made."

And then there was Sottsass' radical use of color. After coming out of the subdued hues of the first half of the century, his use of color stunned the design world. He once said, "With colors you can tell stories... Architecture is made of color. Even those who don't want to use color must use it in the end. It's fundamental." "Colors are like words..."

Italian architect Ettore Sottsass changed the shape of the familiar world and the liveliness of interior and exterior environments. He seemed to harness the power of proportion and volume, as well as color, and fearlessly applied it.

Rest in Peace, Ettore

(Link to Sottsass' 2007 show of "New Works 2004-2006" at the Freidman Benda Gallery, Chelsea, NYC.)

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