Alessandro Mendini’s little daily fantasies

While waiting for it to reopen, the exhibition at MADRE (Naples) is a journey in the master’s world full of colours, images, objects and collective utopias.

In the red, orange and yellow Italy, museums are closed as well. They had, slowly and hardly, just started offering exhibitions to bring the public closer to a new, normal cultural offer. Just a few days before the Madre’s closure in Naples, the exhibition “Alessandro Mendini: piccole fantasie quotidiane” curated by Arianna Rosica and Gianluca Riccio opened. This is the first exhibition in an Italian public museum since his death and it has been realized thanks to a close collaboration with Studio Mendini and in particular with his daughters Fulvia and Elisa.

Starting from the participation to the radical ferment with Controdesign and to the re-evaluation of the decorative in dialogue with the avant-garde artistic culture, the exhibition unfolds as a journey to stations full of colours, drawings, images, objects, visions and utopias. A personal and unique universe capable of exalting an indisputable narrative ability from which Mendini emerges with its complexities and contradictions that are clarified in the continuous research of operational and conceptual tools. A life lived, nourished by the impossibility of defining general and always valid rules, of a conduct that looks at strength lines to overcome the utopia of the present, that creeps into the intersections, into the ones between disciplines.

Alessandro Mendini: piccole fantasie quotidiane, Madre, Naples, Italy, 2020. Photo Amedeo Benestante

Here Scivolavo (1973), Sedia di paglia (1974) and Sedia terra (1975) open this journey with all their semantic ambiguity typical of those who have always played on the edge of paradox, adopting irony as an important mode of speech and of design behaviour. This first junction is also punctuated by some precious collages and drawings such as Per Gianni Pettena. Progetto di una facciata della Casa Radicale all’Isola d’Elba (2007) and the Monumentino da casa (1973).

In describing his vocation, Mendini has always highlighted how his interest was focused on the most delicate knots of individual and collective creativity, on the action of assembly and disassembly in order to realize his witness, his personal star “more or less brilliant in the aesthetic languages constellation”. The theoretical production and the editorial direction are intertwined with the design elaboration, forming a unicum in the international panorama of the design culture. A density released through works that encapsulate its depth, such as the tributes to Balla, Depero, Kandiskij and the extraordinary masks in brass and coloured enamels. A transfigured faces review indicating a personal open dialogue with Antonio Sant’Elia, Tommaso Marinetti, the Futurist avant-garde ferments and the desire of revitalizing the world through colour, decoration and formal experimentation. It is the human being’s push towards utopia. “To be beyond our time, to go beyond our dimension”, Ollo said, presenting the magazine without a message. This is how an intense section dedicated to the extraordinary adventure of Alchimia, defined by Mendini himself as a free and continuous movement of thought. 

Alessandro Mendini: piccole fantasie quotidiane, Madre, Naples, Italy, 2020. Photo Amedeo Benestante

The colour lights up objects such as the Kandissone mirror (1978), the Zabro table (1984). The setting up of the exhibition follows the works on display through a selected chromatic scanning of the walls that go from pink to yellow to sky-blue. A sequence of large backgrounds that help the fruition and the reading of the various stations/sections. Il mobile infinito (1981-2004) restores the desire of sharing a journey in search of accomplices capable of designing a library of forms, a philosophical piece of furniture as he liked to define it.

A system of mutualistic and collaborative mindset that is renewed thanks to the participation of many of his companions such as Andrea Branzi, Michele De Lucchi, Mimmo Paladino, Francesco Clemente and others. The same system followed in the Groninger Museum creation, a patchwork of realized visions and utopias. The Proust station is the one in which one gets lost in the Mendini’s visionary power. The research of a literary path gives shape to an object, to a strongly recognizable surface through a gesture of redesign, of minimum effort with the maximum yield. This is the moment of La Poltrona Proust (1978) and its multiple declinations. This is a tribute to the Signac and Seurat’s painting too, and in the Mendinian system it becomes a paradigm of relations with objects and with everyday life in general. This is clarified by Pinocchio (2000) and the Casetta (2000), a sculpture in painted wood. On a pink background on the walls opens the station dedicated to the writing Styles. It is a transit station in which it is possible to capture the formal, aesthetic elements that inspired Alessandro Mendini’s work in Naples, a city he had an intense relationship with, both personally and professionally. Three projects close this journey into Mendini’s world: the design of the Salvator Rosa and Materdei underground stations and the redesign of some key elements in the Villa Comunale’s renovation. An exhibition that relaunches the ideas and the dreams of a project culture master that “by their nature are immaterial but can move actions and change things” as Franco Raggi, one of the many accomplices in Alessandro Mendini’s extraordinary creative story, states in one of the texts in the catalogue.

Exposition title:
Alessandro Mendini: piccole fantasie quotidiane
Curated by:
Arianna Rosica and Gianluca Riccio
MADRE, Naples, Italy
Opening dates:
from October 30, 2020 to February 1, 2021

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