The Age of Metals is an exhibition dedicated to the work of the artist, poet, architect and designer Alessandro Mendini, running from 4 April to 20 May 2023 at the M77 Gallery.
Curated by Stephan Hamel and with Francesca Alfano Miglietti also participating in the project, the exhibition was conceived by Giuseppe Lezzi and Emanuela Baccaro of M77 Gallery as a new revelation of the eclectic architect and theorist.
Metal is the common denominator describing the kaleidoscopic activities of an artist who had a profound impact on the history of international design and art.
Alessandro Mendini wanted to instil spirit into objects because an object is never a mere instrument, but something that establishes close relationships with a person’s psyche, fragility and uncertainties, working through attitudes shaped by ritual and ceremony.
For Mendini, every object is a symbol, a fetish, fruit of utopias and loves, and the energy that it expresses is a story that gives identity to the silent shapes of things, as if every object reflected its history through its structure, surfaces, colours and materials.
“Since the depths of time, the objects in this world have possessed a soul, that of the spiritual aspirations of individuals and peoples. The mass-produced objects of the industrial era are efforts to recover that lost soul.” Alessandro Mendini, 2014.
Over 70 works, including some extraordinary items on display for the first time, explore the metallic soul of the artist who died in 2019, leaving us his vision of project as art and art as project, his signature creative method in fact.
The curator’s approach builds on Alessandro Mendini’s interest in the use of gold, as in the tower of the Groninger Museum, and of yellow and black, as in the chequered decoration of bus-stop shelters in Hannover or in certain installations of the early ‘90s, in which check patterns invade the surfaces of walls, paintings, sculptures and other objects.
“Checks are mysterious, enigmatic signs, especially if yellow and black, or gold and black. A highly descriptive system used both in mediaeval heraldry and airport runways.
When very small, it translates into the grid of a mosaic or a close woven fabric; when big, it can translate into a simple crossing of two colours.” Alessandro Mendini, 2007.
Some of the many objects on display at the M77 express this combination of two colours and materials, such as the gilded bronze of the small Cavaliere di Dürer (D613 Studiolo, Grenoble), the Short Stories miniatures, exquisite gilded sculptures of certain old items of furniture designed from the ’70s onwards, in the Radical period, or their reproduction in the Stilemi gold pendant jewels, recognizable graphic signs of his personal decorative alphabet (Alessandro Mendini. Cose).
In this iridescent constellation of Alessandro Mendini works, there is an interweaving of materials like the steel of the large Scivolavo chair (Short Stories), the gold leaf mosaic of the sculpture furniture pieces (Bisazza), the ceramics in the Camino vases with their 24 kt gold and opaque platinum finishes and the Proust
Marieda miniature in dappled copper-finish platinum (Alessandro Mendini. Cose), and lastly the glass of the Rombo vase, in the new uranium colouring produced by Lasvit in the tradition of Bohemian master glass makers.
Silver, enamel and copper are the materials chosen by Alessandro Mendini for his tribute to the Italian Futurists in the form of faces and masks on walls, sculptures made by Argenteria Pampaloni in Florence.
“Of the materials and precious stones, I like working with gold because of its beauty and technical versatility. But what interests me most is that gold, since the distant times of Agamemnon’s mask to the present day, and everywhere, has been a precious means in the hands of humanity for creating small symbols imbued with poetry and memories.” Alessandro Mendini, 2000.
The exhibition includes some original drawings and paintings by the artist, taken from the Alessandro Mendini Archive.
The objects from the Alessandro Mendini. Cose editions were selected from the wealth of projects and designs in the Alessandro Mendini Archive curated by Elisa and Fulvia Mendini.