Hamiltons’ Summer 2014 exhibition showcases a unique and important selection of photographs and furniture by renowned Italian designer Carlo Mollino and a collection of rare colour prints from Robert Mapplethorpe’s Flowers series.
Mollino is recognised as one of Italy’s most original creators, the exhibition includes rare Polaroids and C-prints from the fifties and sixties alongside two of Mollino’s most recognisable masterpieces of modern design, The Lattes Chair and The Copenhagen Chair.
Relishing the simplicity of Polaroids, Mollino (1905–1973) relinquished his Plaubel, Leica and Rolleiflex in the early sixties forsaking ‘technical photographic aids for the aesthetic transfiguration of nature’ as discussed in his essay, Il Messaggio dalla Camera Oscura, on the history and criticism of photography, published originally in 1943. He never published or exhibited his Polaroids – indeed, they were discovered after his death – and was far from interested in giving them art value, considering them intimate, personal projects. They were not about the machine, the size, hues or paper type – they were raw and untouched – invariably depicting the female form, photographed in his properties of his home town and often pictured straddling his furniture designs.
Mollino was unique in blending diverse passions and influences and whilst curating the show gallery owner, Tim Jefferies, chose to include two important objects - as seen in the Polaroids. These pieces, The Lattes Chair (left) and The Copenhagen Chair (right) are extraordinary and exclusive in their own right; rarely dallying with the disciplines of design for mass production, Mollino was rigorous in his stride against the mainstream and devotion to unique works. The chairs represent a transition from, what we consider today, the sculpturally organic period of Mollino’s work to his experimentation with new techniques. Predominantly concentrating on ergonomics and function, they signify a shift from the exuberance of his early projects to a more essential, pure approach. Both pieces have been held in private collections for a number of years and, it is with great pleasure, that Hamiltons welcomes this opportunity to exhibit them in conjunction with Salon 94, NYC.
The Summer show will also include a selection of large format, colour works from Robert Mapplethorpe’s Flowers series; this is the most significant collection of signed dye-transfer Flowers prints to be exhibited in many years. The group comes from a private American collection, where it has been kept for quarter of a century.
Flowers draws particular attention to Mapplethorpe’s exquisite exploration of colour; the images – both bold and uncompromising reveal an untouchable yet sensitive clarity of tone and composition. Each is highly stylised and shot in a controlled studio environment; Mapplethorpe’s understanding of form and light, coupled with his meticulous compositions, create truly beautiful images that revel in the sensual quality of nature. Some of his Flowers are tinged with menace whilst others are wholly erotic – a suggestively bristled stem leading to a bulbous poppy bud or lily. Peter Schultz wrote in The History of Photography, Spring 1998; “Poppy offers visual evidence for an erotic reading of the photographer’s floral work…Mapplethorpe captured the flower in an uncommon position – from behind. The carefully positioned light source emphasized this ‘backdoor’ point of view.”
Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) lived in New York and had an undeniable impact on the art world with his globally renowned portraiture, nudes, self-portraits, flowers and still lifes. He became notorious in the seventies and eighties for his photographs of the male nude and explicit gay imagery; unintentionally shocking, Mapplethorpe leaned toward classical beauty and struggled to depict the world as it was with honesty and truth.
Carlo Mollino, 'Untitled, c.1950s' © The Estate of Carlo Mollino