Gaetano Pesce Pratt Chair #7 1984/2018
Salon 94 Design presents a continuation of Gaetano Pesce’s 1984 Pratt Chair with 16 new resin chairs — each in a unique translucent color.
“Around 1972, I started this idea that design is a form of art. If we respect certain conditions, art can be amplified to be a more rich expression: design. The Pratt Chair was an opportunity for me to demonstrate what I was saying.
This is a story between what we consider design, and what we consider art. But in case of the Pratt Chair, it is a banality- because what changes is just the chemical formula. This is ironic because we make a lot of talk about design/art, art/design. The Pratt Chair- depending on the density of resin, is a sculpture or a chair. The idea was to make #1-9, changing the formula from #1 liquid, to a little more resistant, to structural, to dense- until #9.
The formula of the # 1 was jelly- as soon as we opened the mold, the chair collapsed — like a body with no bones. In that moment we cannot use the chair. We can only look at the chair — as we do with art. We then changed the formula. So, #2 is a little stronger, when we open the mold the chair stands up but if you touch it, it collapses. Then, #3 is a chair that a small child might sit, but it also gives the child a kind of insecurity because the chair wobbles. #4 is okay for the child, as #5 and #6 might be for an adult. Then #7 changes again because the curve hardens- hugging the back. Number #8 and #9 are so rigid that they become uncomfortable”
— Gaetano Pesce in conversation with Glenn Adamson, October 2018.
In 1984 Pesce requested to use Pratt’s laboratory, studio space and tools to make molds for a special chair he had modeled in wax. Thus the Pratt Chair was named. Initially, Pesce intended to make a series of 81 chairs using nine resin formulas, yielding nine chairs from each formula, however in this initial experiment he made only thirty-four.
The Pratt Chair is a series of volumes on the floor, and exists as a physical manifestation of Pesce’s argument that “design is a form of art”.Glenn Adamson explains, “while in a series and made from a mold, the Pratt Chair resists the modernist idea of a perfect chair. The first chair and the ninth chair are the ones that are more like sculpture because they become unusable. It is like a shifting set of values.” For Pesce material processes has always been experiments in liquid form. For Pesce, the liquidity of resin is a metaphor for the character of our time, “Where values move around, up and down like a liquid”.
The Pratt Chair communicates though its organic human shape and the symbols inscribed on the resin. The hand, for example is a symbol that speaks to the difference between an idea and a physical object, representing manual labor that is required to make and test the functionality of the chair. Below is a chart of these symbols and their Pesce meanings:
New technologies and pigments pressed Pesce to rethink the thirty-four year old Pratt Chair. Thus the original mold was taken down from its workshop shelf, dusted and mended. In several steps, Pesce’s studio painstakingly made a new chair with the original cracked mold, and then made a new mold from this chair. Both the original and new molds will be on view in the exhibition. While the mold implies repetition, which Pesce is fundamentally against, however each chair becomes an experiment in color and now transparency — starting with pink, and moving to multicolor.
The Pratt Chair is in the following international institutions: ADAM Brussels Design Museum, Brussels, Belgium; Centre George Pompidou, Paris, France; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, United States; FRAC Alsace, Sélestat, France; Museum of Modern Art, New York City, United States; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, United States; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, United States; Victoria & Albert Museum, London, United Kingdom; Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany.
Also on view will be a new cabinet, tables and vases by Pesce.
Gaetano Pesce has been recognized for his work in architecture, urban planning, interior, and industrial design for over five decades in both Italy and the United States. Pesce has been included in a number of monumental exhibitions worldwide, including the inaugural Italy: The New Domestic Landscape exhibition at MoMA in 1972, which introduced dozens of canonical Italian designers and architects to United States.
Gaetano Pesce’s Pratt Chairs will be on view at 12 East 94th Street from November 7 - December 14, with an opening reception on Wednesday November 7 from 6-8 pm. The exhibition will be open to public from Monday to Friday 10-6.
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