“Today there no longer exists any distance between the natural world and the artificial world, because the latter has become a second nature….When I bring nature up against technology, I do not seek to reconcile myself with nature, but to reconcile myself with technology, by transferring into it this great plankton of mixed materials in which we live.”
On September 11, Friedman Benda will present Trees and Stones, Andrea Branzi’s first gallery exhibition in the United States. An exemplary social thinker, professor, architect, and designer, Branzi has been a fundamental influence on contemporary design in Italy and abroad since the early 1960s. Here he offers the latest works in his Trees series and unveils a new body of work, Stones, beside it.
Since his emergence at the forefront of the 1960s and 1970s Italian radical design movements, Branzi has sought to reconcile design and architecture with the challenges of contemporary society. He was among the first thinkers to consider and integrate issues of unlimited supply, the mass-production of images and products, and the over-saturation of cities with conflicting aesthetics.
Decades of thought-work and experimentation have produced Trees and Stones, gestures Branzi has honed throughout his life. With these pieces, Branzi again overcomes the strictures of Modernism and Classicism to forge more sensible and more human paths in design. He escapes any stifled aesthetics and rather than “perfect” design, makes items that are warm, aged, and transcendent. After 50 years, it is possible to recognize these confident pieces as the distillation of Branzi’s life-long endeavor.
In his latest works, Branzi unites a dichotomy of objects in modern society. The Trees designs allow the entry of symbolic, organic elements into a daily urban life estranged from its ties to nature. Included in the exhibition are bookshelves for which Branzi combines pieces of birch tree with metal grids and mirrors. His interventions in the metal structures create small environments, wherein man-made forms balance with the interloping trees to achieve a new harmony. Once set together, they become Branzi’s unique creation, serene and open to growth through use. These new projects share a minimalist approach and exquisite craftsmanship, and their refinement draws a high-water mark in Branzi’s illustrious career.