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Ettore Sottsass: Architect and Designer

March 12 - June 11, 2006

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA

Large Aphrodisiac Vase [for Conserving Contracepti...

Large Aphrodisiac Vase [for Conserving Contraceptive Pills], 1966

Visit: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents Ettore Sottsass on view from March 12 through June 11, 2006, showcasing the works of the renowned Italian architect-designer in his first major museum survey exhibition in the United States. Widely acclaimed for his groundbreaking contributions to furniture and office machine design since the 1950s, Sottsass is equally known for his outspoken ideas against colorless, purely functional design and the disposability of twentieth-century consumer culture. The exhibition, organized by LACMA Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts, Ronald T. Labaco, includes nearly one hundred objects highlighted in an installation conceptualized by Sottsass himself.

Sottsass's seemingly divergent interests in modern technology and ancient traditions coalesce in designs meant to engage the user intellectually and emotionally. Breaking from the asceticism of typical office machines, the shiny red Valentine portable typewriter (1969) bears all of the hallmarks of Pop art—witty, sexy, gimmicky, mass-produced, and aimed at youth culture. By using the color red, with its associations of love and passion, Sottsass sets a dramatic tone for the writer or poet to record his or her thoughts and emotions. Sottsass's Lapislazzuli teapot reflects the designer's interest in ancient and non-Western cultures. Based on the form of a Mesopotamian stepped pyramid, the teapot addresses the all but forgotten social ritual of pouring and serving tea in a modern world full of disposable coffee cups and canned soft drinks.

"At the age of 88, Ettore Sottsass, one of the great designers of our time, is finally attaining the recognition in the United States that he so richly deserves," says Ronald T. Labaco. "His work has remained enigmatic to many, difficult to fit into any neat category of modern design because a large part of it is theoretical and because he himself seeks to elude the commodification that pervades our consumerist culture. As a leader and a mentor, his influence is widespread and he has inspired generations of architects and designers. No doubt he will continue to do so in this new century."

Because of the breadth of Ettore Sottsass's artistic contributions and his continued achievements as a design leader, the exhibition is not considered a retrospective. It is, rather, a carefully selected group of objects representing some of Sottsass' most influential works throughout the course of his enduring career. Ettore Sottsass unveils the provocative designs of a creative force not yet fully exposed to the American audience, at the same time underscoring LACMA's firm commitment to promoting modern and contemporary design.

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