Mario Cravo Neto
Vintage 1980s Brazilian Post-Modern Photography
A Close Look at post-modern Furniture
Postmodern design was a short-lived movement that manifested itself chiefly in Italy and the United States in the early 1980s. The characteristics of vintage postmodern furniture and other postmodern objects and decor for the home included loud-patterned, usually plastic surfaces; strange proportions, vibrant colors and weird angles; and a vague-at-best relationship between form and function.
ORIGINS OF POSTMODERN FURNITURE DESIGN
- Emerges during the 1960s; popularity explodes during the ’80s
- A reaction to prevailing conventions of modernism by mainly American architects
- Architect Robert Venturi critiques modern architecture in his Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966)
- Theorist Charles Jencks, who championed architecture filled with allusions and cultural references, writes The Language of Post-Modern Architecture (1977)
- Italian design collective the Memphis Group, also known as Memphis Milano, meets for the first time (1980)
- Memphis collective debuts more than 50 objects and furnishings at Salone del Milano (1981)
- Interest in style declines, minimalism gains steam
CHARACTERISTICS OF POSTMODERN FURNITURE DESIGN
- Dizzying graphic patterns and an emphasis on loud, off-the-wall colors
- Use of plastic and laminates, glass, metal and marble; lacquered and painted wood
- Unconventional proportions and abundant ornamentation
- Playful nods to Art Deco and Pop art
POSTMODERN FURNITURE DESIGNERS TO KNOW
- Ettore Sottsass
- Robert Venturi
- Alessandro Mendini
- Michele de Lucchi
- Michael Graves
- Nathalie du Pasquier
VINTAGE POSTMODERN FURNITURE ON 1STDIBS
Critics derided postmodern design as a grandstanding bid for attention and nothing of consequence. Decades later, the fact that postmodernism still has the power to provoke thoughts, along with other reactions, proves they were not entirely correct.
Postmodern design began as an architectural critique. Starting in the 1960s, a small cadre of mainly American architects began to argue that modernism, once high-minded and even noble in its goals, had become stale, stagnant and blandly corporate. Later, in Milan, a cohort of creators led by Ettore Sottsass and Alessandro Mendini — a onetime mentor to Sottsass and a key figure in the Italian Radical movement — brought the discussion to bear on design.
Sottsass, an industrial designer, philosopher and provocateur, gathered a core group of young designers into a collective in 1980 they called Memphis. Members of the Memphis Group, which would come to include Martine Bedin, Michael Graves, Marco Zanini, Shiro Kuramata, Michele de Lucchi and Matteo Thun, saw design as a means of communication, and they wanted it to shout. That it did: The first Memphis collection appeared in 1981 in Milan and broke all the modernist taboos, embracing irony, kitsch, wild ornamentation and bad taste.
Memphis works remain icons of postmodernism: the Sottsass Casablanca bookcase, with its leopard-print plastic veneer; de Lucchi’s First chair, which has been described as having the look of an electronics component; Martine Bedin’s Super lamp: a pull-toy puppy on a power-cord leash. Even though it preceded the Memphis Group’s formal launch, Sottsass’s iconic Ultrafragola mirror — in its conspicuously curved plastic shell with radical pops of pink neon — proves striking in any space and embodies many of the collective’s postmodern ideals.
After the initial Memphis show caused an uproar, the postmodern movement within furniture and interior design quickly took off in America. (Memphis fell out of fashion when the Reagan era gave way to cool 1990’s minimalism.) The architect Robert Venturi had by then already begun a series of plywood chairs for Knoll Inc., with beefy, exaggerated silhouettes of traditional styles such as Queen Anne and Chippendale. In 1982, the new firm Swid Powell enlisted a group of top American architects, including Frank Gehry, Richard Meier, Stanley Tigerman and Venturi to create postmodern tableware in silver, ceramic and glass.
On the Origins of Brazil
More often than not, vintage mid-century Brazilian furniture designs, with their gleaming wood, soft leathers and inviting shapes, share a sensuous, unique quality that distinguishes them from the more rectilinear output of American and Scandinavian makers of the same era.
Commencing in the 1940s and '50s, a group of architects and designers transformed the local cultural landscape in Brazil, merging the modernist vernacular popular in Europe and the United States with the South American country's traditional techniques and indigenous materials.
Key mid-century influencers on Brazilian furniture design include natives Oscar Niemeyer, Sergio Rodrigues and José Zanine Caldas as well as such European immigrants as Joaquim Tenreiro, Jean Gillon and Jorge Zalszupin. These creators frequently collaborated; for instance, Niemeyer, an internationally acclaimed architect, commissioned many of them to furnish his residential and institutional buildings.
The popularity of Brazilian modern furniture has made household names of these designers and other greats. Their particular brand of modernism is characterized by an émigré point of view (some were Lithuanian, German, Polish, Ukrainian, Portuguese, and Italian), a preference for highly figured indigenous Brazilian woods, a reverence for nature as an inspiration and an atelier or small-production mentality.
Hallmarks of Brazilian mid-century design include smooth, sculptural forms and the use of native woods like rosewood, jacaranda and pequi. The work of designers today exhibits many of the same qualities, though with a marked interest in exploring new materials (witness the Campana Brothers' stuffed-animal chairs) and an emphasis on looking inward rather than to other countries for inspiration.
Finding the Right Wall Decorations for You
An empty wall in your home is a blank canvas, and that’s good news. Whether you’ve chosen to arrange a collage of paintings in a hallway or carefully position a handful of wall-mounted sculptures in your dining room, there are a lot of options for beautifying your space with the antique and vintage wall decor and decorations available on 1stDibs.
“I recommend leaving enough space above the piece of furniture to allow for usable workspace and to protect the art from other items damaging it,” says Susana Simonpietri, of Brooklyn home design studio Chango & Co.
Hanging a single attention-grabbing large-scale print or poster over your bar or bar cart can prove intoxicating, but the maximalist approach of a salon-style hang, a practice rooted in 17th-century France, can help showcase works of various shapes, styles and sizes on a single wall or part of a wall.
If you’re planning on creating an accent wall — or just aiming to bring a variety of colors and textures into a bedroom — there is more than one way to decorate with wallpaper. Otherwise, don’t overlook what textiles can introduce to a space. A vintage tapestry can work wonders and will be easy to move when you’ve found that dream apartment in another borough.
Express your taste and personality with the right ornamental touch for the walls of your home or office — find a range of contemporary art, vintage photography, paintings and other wall decor and decorations on 1stDibs now.