On the eve of PAD Paris, the four-day art and design fair staged in the Tuileries each spring, the Italian Cultural Institute unveiled the first comprehensive retrospective devoted to the talented Italian collective, Nucleo.

Since 2004, the Turin-based studio has produced small and large-scale pieces that introduce a high-minded aesthetic to artisanal techniques. Witness the 'Carboniferous' table, a black aerodynamic mass of jagged angles that, on first glance, looks like honed wood. In fact, it was constructed from honeycomb cardboard filled in by resin and then topped with textural layers of carbon fibre.

Nucleo's director Piergiorgio Robino could be found in one salon of the Hôtel de Galliffet explaining a new enamel and glass material that he has just developed, while spending the past month in Paris as the Institute's artist in residence. 'It's all like improvisation,' he said, adding that once back in Turin, he will use the tile to create a tabletop.

'You feel somehow that the pieces remind you of the past but they are very much of this century,' explained Cologne gallery owner Gabrielle Ammann who, along with Milan's venerable Nina Yashar and Galerie Italienne in Paris, represents Nucleo and supplied the curators with key works. She described the wood bench encased in bubbled amber resin as 'a fossil of the future'.

To the credit of curators Elena Giulia Abbiatici and Melania Ross, the show conveys the evolution of the collective (which also includes Stefania Fersini, Alice Carlotta Occleppo and Alexandra Denton) without being pedantic. The onus is on the viewer to notice that the stacked transparent cubes formed into the low 'Presenze' chair from 2011, reappear as a Murano glass vase created this year. Beyond the 15 works staggered throughout the space, the exhibition presents treaties and theories that make up the foundation of Nucleo's output.

'Parisians love Italian design and this is very special design; it is post-modern that is not based on industrial practices. They are looking at recuperating the past as they create and conceive,' said the Italian Cultural Institute's director, Marina Valensise. 'Some people say this will be the future of Italian design because through it we can reinvigorate craft.'

TAGS: PARIS