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Ettore Sottsass Enamels in Rotterdam

22 Feb 2011

Kunsthal Rotterdam presents Ettore Sottsass' enamels from 1958 which together constitute a quintessential phase within the career of this Italian designer and architect.

In the late Fifties Sottsass built up an oeuvre of works in geometrical forms of which colour is the key element. By means of lines and circles he experimented with colourful enamel on vases and on plates. Over one hundred objects and drawings by Sottsass, who is generally considered to be one of the leading members of the Memphis group, are at the basis of the revolutionary designs that became his claim to fame later on.

Enamelled copper tondo, 1958 - photo Enzo Asaia

The years in between 1957 and 1961 are crucial to Sottsass' career. He was educated at the Polytechnic University of Turin and, fully in line with his rationalist education, started to build up an oeuvre consisting of simple geometrical patterns.

Pastel on blueprint, 1958 - courtesy Museo Casa Mollino

In 1958 he investigated the complex technical process of enamelling and explored its artistic possibilities. The vitreous nature of enamel gives a physical thickness to surfaces, irregular yet smooth and shiny, and offers the possibility to use pure and extraordinarily vivid colours.

Enamelled copper vases on wooden base, 1958 - courtesy Museo Casa Mollino

Sottsass was clearly enchanted by the material quality of enamel and attached it to wooden vases and metal plates. In the vases he designes the enamel is exalted by contrast with the natural warmth of the wooden bases.

Catalogus Gallery Il Sestante Milan 1959 1959 - courtesy Museo Casa Mollino

The exhibition sheds light on this highly productive designing period in Sottsass' career and provides a valuable insight into the development of his oeuvre. Sottsass' is best known for designing the iconic red plastic Olivetti Valentine typewriter (1969) and the expressive Carlton bookcase (1981).

Exhibition: Ettore Sottsass Enamels 1958
Kunsthal Rotterdam
February 12 to May 1 2011

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