Resin Shine

Plastic's reputation recast in '60s retro exhibit

Part of the pleasure of this exhibition is in seeing how designers explored the basic qualities of the materials, looking for the best ways to apply their attributes. Vivid colors were the most eye-catching characteristic of the era's designs in plastics. But the materials' most lasting impact occurred in the area of form. Designers found they could use plastics to create configurations that couldn't be made as easily or as durably in wood and other traditional materials.

Gaetano Pesce's "Donna" chair, a voluptuous, polyurethane babe of a seat attired in a tight, red nylon jersey, is one of the more humorous examples.

Joe Colombo's 1965 seater is a more subdued effort to redefine the form.

Gaetano Pesce's 1969 "Donna" chair is among the more than 100 works in Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art's "Pop Plastics: Molding the Shape of the 1960s."
Gaetano Pesce's 1969 "Donna" chair is among the more than 100 works in Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art's "Pop Plastics: Molding the Shape of the 1960s."

Details

Continues through Sunday, September 17, at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 7380 East Second Street, Scottsdale. Call 480-994-2787.

Sentinery points out that Colombo's was the first four-legged, stackable chair to be injection molded. But the process required the legs to be attached separately, as if they were made of metal or wood.

Magistretti's "Selene" stacking chair, made several years later, took the four-legged injected version a step further by producing it in a single piece -- the method used to make today's pool seats and lounges. The beauty of his design is in its use of corrugation to strengthen the legs. Instead of thickening the plastic, Magistretti girded it with a cross section that looks like an "s" curve. He did much the same in designing the legs of his "Arcadia" table.

Vernor Panton eliminated the traditional chair legs altogether, creating an organic form -- the "Panton" chair -- with a continuous curvilinear surface.

The clean beauty of these forms was nothing new. It was preached and dreamed about by designers at the Bauhaus in the 1920s. But the organic purity of these and other great forms in this exhibition belongs to the 1960s, when advanced production techniques made plastics the material for the long-awaited brave new world.

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