Tribute Exhibition to Vico Magistretti

Within the scope of the Italian Design Day, Portugal welcomes, until 26 March, first in Lisbon, and then in Oporto, the traveling exhibition Svicolando, Homenagem a Vico Magistretti.  With the architect Nadir Bonaccorso as curator, the exhibition was first held at Centro Cultural de Belém, and can now be found in Casa do Design de Matosinhos.

The exhibition reveals itself in an exhibition room that is filled, at the center, by two structures made in card, displaying drawings, sketches and photography reproductions of the designer’s life and work.

Given the vast amount of drawings exhibited, the curator is able to emphasize the importance that design had in the Italian designer’s craft. For Magistretti, the most important thing in drawing or sketching was not particularly the way he illustrated the image of the object, but its meaning. Not depicting, according to the designer’s perspective, the place where objects are born, rather the space where relations are established between the designer’s ideas and the series production, under a “continues exchange of remarks and suggestions.” As a record of that period, of all phases of the work, the drawing continues to assemble the object, in successive attempts and “enformations”, revealing the typical and natural tensions that are settled between his creative enthusiasm and the materials (im)possibilities and techniques of his realization. Drawing, for Magistretti, was like an excavation process, reaching the deepest essence of the object. Trying to “look at the vulgar object with an unvulgar look”.

With that in mind, drawing is favoured by the information it contains. An information that is intentional, and one that reveals, step by step, the concerns raised by the designer, from a structural order.

Therefore, in the “coming of the line”, as put by Philip Cabau, the white space of the drawing is filled with a plethora of lines, blurred or vigorous, in a quest for solutions, and in which the designer, initially, establishes a dialog with himself.

Side-lining these structures, which support the drawings in the centre of the exhibition, are some of its most emblematic pieces: the Eclisse piece, the Atollo piece and the Dalu piece are the greatest examples. Table lamps denounce the appeal that Vico Magistretti had to work the several nuances of light and shadow. The Eclisse lamp, done in 1965, expresses this possibility of light adjustment. Made of three half spheres, one acts as the lamp’s base, the other two, concentric, are on the top of the first, acting as styling elements of light. The inner semi-sphere rotates and the outer sphere works as a lampshade, eliminating the hard light and giving a second interpretation to the lamp. The Dalu lamp, in turn, was conceived in 1969 and is an excellent example of the experiences in injection-moulded plastic that the designer started to conducted in 1966. Dalu and Eclisse are therefore the outcome of what the plastic moulding technique allows in freedom and multiplication of forms. Facilitating the implementation of abstract geometric shapes that Magistretti appreciated so much, whilst not neglecting the silent union of the parts, made with small, very subtle elements.

Also present at the exhibition is the floor lamp, Chimera, of 1970. It is a lamp comprised of a wavy white diffuser. A sheet of white opal methacrylate serves as a lampshade and shapes the light.

The Atollo lamp (1977) also reveals a light diffuser in black. Composed by a juxtaposition of simple geometric shapes, it preserves the structure of a traditional lamp, however Magistretti worked it until complete exhaustion, in order to reach its essentiality, as if it were an abstract geometric sculpture.

Magistretti was part of the group of designers which, in the 50s/60s of the 20th century, helped to take the modern Italian design to a broader spectrum, in an international perspective. Designers such as Castiglioni, Marco Zanuzo, Tobia Scarpa, and Magistretti himself reacted against the international, rationalist style, as he was, in the contours of the ULM school, and integrated more humanized elements, such as allowing the memory and the appreciation of what is autochthonous.

Carla Carbone was born in Lisbon, 1971. She studied Drawing in and Design of Equipment at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon. Completed his Masters in Visual Arts Teaching. She writes about Design since 1999, first in the newspaper O Independente, then in editions like Anuário de Design, arq.a magazine, DIF, Parq. She also participates in editions such as FRAME, Diário Digital, Wrongwrong, and in the collection of Portuguese designers, edited by the newspaper Público. She collaborated with illustrations for Fanzine Flanzine and Gerador magazine. (photo: Eurico Lino Vale)

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