Cesare Leonardi

Villa Croce in Genoa, Italy, presents an exhibition on the work of architect and photographer Cesare Leonardi, focusing on three main themes: trees, chairs and shadows.

“Cesare Leonardi: Strutture” is an intimate journey inside Leonardi’s extraordinary body of work. Born in Modena, Italy in 1935, the architect and photographer had a career that spanned more than four decades, continuously challenging the boundary between design and artistic practice. The Villa Croce Museum of Contemporary Art in Genoa presents the first comprehensive exhibition, highlighting the constant tension between work of art and craftsmanship.


In spite of the recognition gained by his early furniture design – such as the Rocking chair, designed with Franca Stagi in 1967 and featured in the foundational MoMA exhibition “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape” – most of Leonardi’s oeuvre has remained little known, even within Italy. The exhibition “Cesare Leonardi: Strutture”, organized in close cooperation with Leonardi’s archive, sheds light on a body of work that is at once intimate and multifaceted.

Cesare Leonardi, Phoenix dactylifera and Pinus pinea, 1978-1982
Left: Cesare Leonardi, Phoenix dactylifera, 1978–1982. nk on tracing paper. Right: Pinus pinea, 1978–1982. Courtesy Archivio Architetto Cesare Leonardi
The exhibition uses the historical backdrop of Villa Croce to explore three broad topics — chairs, shadows, trees — which preoccupied Leonardi throughout his career, and on which he worked across very different scales. In parallel with the acclaimed work on fiberglass furniture, in the 1960s Leonardi and Stagi embarked on a twenty-year-long project to redraw common trees in order to provide a missing tool for landscape designers. The systematic study of trees, conducted through a large photographic survey that took Leonardi to travel around the world, was propaedeutic to a series of landscape projects based on the idea of a non-hierarchic network. The structure, potentially endless, regulates the position of each element in space.
Cesare Leonardi, Strutture, 1956
Cesare Leonardi, Strutture, 1956. Inchiostro su carta da spolvero, 100 x 70 cm. Courtesy Galleria Civica di Modena
In the 1980s, as a reaction to the oil crisis that made fiberglass no longer sustainable, Leonardi began working with simple timber formwork. Decontextualized and combined according to increasingly complex patterns, the yellow boards became a series of furniture termed Solidi. These are veritable sculptures in which Leonardi explores the idea of an infinite permutation of the same element.
Cesare Leonardi, P 18, Solidi series, 1995 ca. Photo Cesare Leonardi
Cesare Leonardi, P 18, Solidi series, 1995 ca. Three layers fir-wood panel, with yellow finishing, 70 x 50 x 50 cm. Photo Cesare Leonardi, courtesy Archivio Architetto Cesare Leonardi

from 23 February to 17 April 2017
Cesare Leonardi: Strutture
curated by Joseph Grima and Andrea Bagnato
in collaboration with Archivio Architetto Cesare Leonardi
Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Villa Croce
via Jacopo Ruffini 3, Genoa

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