When Gaetano Pesce was studying architecture at the University of Venice in the late 1950s and early 60s, he not only participated in the post-Bauhaus art collective Gruppo N, but also worked in the Venetian factories of the Murano glass powerhouses of Moretti, Vistosi and Venini. While the former gave him a formalist and conceptual tool kit (integrating painting, sculpture, architecture and industrial design into a single practice), the latter helped to expand his notions of materiality, and to lay the foundation for his lifelong obsession with resin.
‘What glass and resin have in common is the timing of transformation from liquid to solid and the process of reaction,’ says Pesce, who was also obsessed with the artistic processes found in the culinary world. ‘The kitchen and the art of cooking had a big influence on me and my work with molds. If you think about it, we need small open sky molds to make cookies or cakes, and that’s the same with my works.’
In the early 1980s, when the artist began working with the translucent material, its chemical composition was different than those seen in today’s high-performance resins. ‘It was sensitive to the light. In other words, the light could have changed the transparency, elasticity and solidity of the resin – I can see in my works of 20 years ago that some of their qualities have changed,’ notes Pesce, who created molds for chairs, vases, and lamps – in addition to two-dimensional cast-resin reliefs, which the artist refers to as ‘industrial skins’.
All of these are being exhibited in the four-decade-spanning 'Gaetano Pesce: Molds (Gelati Misti)', at MOCA Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles. The curiosity about Pesce’s processes by curator Bennett Simpson has resulted in a show that examines the narrative behind ‘mass-produced objects where each one has its own quality while differing from each other – the production of the "aleatory" and not standardised series’, says Pesce. ‘Some of the molds are from the 70s when I asked to myself for the first time, "Why objects must be considered alike when people are different?"’
As such, viewers will find examples of vases resembling manicured trees, mangy hirsute mussels and green flames, as well as industrial skins imprinted with images of feet and pregnant mothers, and a red, white and blue prototype chair that would have felt at home in Tommy Hilfiger’s disco-era bell-bottom boutiques.
‘In the exhibition there [are] many vessels because I have dedicated a lot of time and practice in realising these objects. The reason is that I believe they represent something special and important, maybe the most important being the mother’s womb,’ says Pesce, who also considers maternity a prime expression in his iconic doors. ‘This specific part of the feminine body has been a primary element of most of the ancient civilizations, from Mesopotamians to Greeks and Romans, and the Italian Renaissance. This is my contribution to that important branch of art.’