At the grand age of 74, Gaetano Pesce shows no signs of slowing down. In the last six months, the seasoned designer and artist has colluded with galleries around the world to present several new creations, including tables in London and jewellery in Paris. This week sees the unveiling of 'L'Abbraccio', his first solo exhibition in 25 years in his adopted hometown of New York, which will not only showcase furniture pieces, but also maquettes, lighting and rare drawings that date back to the 1970s.
In inimitable Pesce style, the show, which will be held at Fred Torres Collaborations, centres on the universal themes of love and empathy that have characterised his work since the 1960s. The title piece of the exhibition is an intricate cabinet shaped in the form of an embracing couple, designed in 2009, that not only embodies the visionary designer's innate understanding of materials and colour, but his approach to figurative representation as well.
'This an exhibition about affection and positive feelings. I hope that people understand that we need to hug, to caress and to love. There's not a lot of it in contemporary life,' Pesce emphasised. 'It's so important that we do these things. It helps to provide a better view on life and that is the critical message of the exhibition.'
To properly showcase the designer's multifaceted creative approach, the exhibition has been installed in three themes - Eros, Philos and Agape. The cabinet is located in the first, alongside sketches of discarded clothing and a maquette of a rag chair, which together symbolise intense passion and desire. A larger room is dedicated to Philos, fraternal love, where rare drawings such as 'Habitat for Two' and 'Commune for Twelve' take centre stage. The third room focuses on a divine and unconditional type of love, Agape. Here, pieces like '9-11 cabinet', Pesce's optimistic reaction to the 2001 tragedy (which was also his entry in the World Trade Centre Memorial competition) are displayed alongside the sculpture 'Italia in Croce', a mildly veiled commentary on the state of Italian politics today.
While the profundity of Pesce's work is undeniable, it is the designer's creative versatility and skilled manipulation of materials as varied as resin, polyurethane and silicon that truly shines through. This exhibition is a worthy opportunity to see Pesce's brilliance up-close.