I’m writing this today because I don’t want you to miss out on an incredible exhibition at the Friedman Benda gallery here in New York City. The show is called “Trees and Stones” and
it features the first gallery exhibition of the work of the legendary Italian designer, cum architect, Andrea Branzi.
SOME BACKGROUND: After talking with Alice Higgins, an associate director of Friedman Benda, I learned that Branzi, was not only formally trained as an architect, but has been at the forefront of the contemporary design movement in Italy since his emergence as a significant architect/designer in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
He is particularly noted for being one of original champions of the Italian Radical Architecture movement, and was a founder of Archizoom in 1965, Studio Alchimia in the late 1970’s and the irreverent Memphis Group in the 1980’s. He is also renowned for being a co-founder of Domus Academy in 1983, the first international post graduate school for design.
He has been awarded the Compasso d’Oro, a prestigious industrial design award from Italy three times, and featured in such highly acclaimed art gatherings as the Venice Biennale and the Milan Triennale.
Add to this list many other design honors and awards, numerous books on design history and theory and his presence in the permanent collections of a multitude of museums around the world and one can see what a stellar career Branzi has had.
The Friedman Benda gallery is a sleek, all white/ high ceiling/cement floor gallery in Chelsea that totally suits the furniture pieces Branzi has designed. According to Alice, Branzi has been including pieces of nature in his work for many years, so this exhibition is a further extension of his desire to reconcile the distance between the natural world and the material world through his furnishiings.
The contrast of sleek, patinated aluminum planes with pieces of bark encrusted branches running through them is a superb example of the highly successful marriage of nature and artificial material Branzi espouses. Add to this shelf units composed of mirror-like polished aluminum, with a branch almost the size of a small tree integrated into the austere composition and you begin to wonder why you don’t have something as beautiful as this in your own home.
AND I must not forget to mention the stone pieces where Branzi has strategically placed large rocks on slim darkened steel poles, like the tops of spiritual totem poles.
One would question whether this is furniture or sculpture, it is so exquisitely executed. When Alice showed me the stunning high metal cabinets, which are all totally functional, I wondered if I would ever be able to put anything inside of them without thinking I was desecrating this gorgeous creation. These are definitely furnishings that need not be cluttered up with the ordinary detritus of day to day living, but accented with objets d’art that deserve to be spotlighted.
Must share with you a video moment at Friedman Benda with Alice filling me in on some of the details about Branzi and a quick visual of the exhibit at the gallery. This should definitely whet your appetite to see more!
Now, at the ripe age of 74, Branzi is still actively producing non-conformist pieces of furniture that challenge conventional shapes, colors, textures and patterns. If you are a lover of the exceptional in the Italian design community, which made Italy the center for all that is wild and wonderful in furniture design, you must not miss this exhibit!
CIAO, CIAO ‘TIL NEXT TIME!