May 27–October 16, 2022 My Dear Mountains Gaetano Pesce
Aspen Art Museum
The Aspen Art Museum presents My Dear Mountains, an exhibition by Gaetano Pesce, one of the world’s most influential living multidisciplinary artists and creative minds, celebrated worldwide for his provocative and experimental pursuit of material, technological and social innovation. Driven by risk-taking curiosity and radical thinking, Pesce’s work is renowned for blurring boundaries between art, design, and architecture. Supported by the Italian Council (9th Edition, 2020), a program of the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity of the Italian Ministry of Culture to promote Italian contemporary art in the world, Gaetano Pesce’s new project was conceived especially for the Aspen Art Museum and features a monumental site-specific installation covering the whole façade of the museum with a figurative image of the sun setting over a mountain landscape. This large outdoor intervention on the building—the artist’s first-ever façade—is accompanied by a display of his furniture, drawings, and sculptures within the museum’s ground floor gallery. Pesce’s motto is that architecture should be a distinctive portrait of those who inhabit it. Very much in this spirit, My Dear Mountains responds to the existing architectural features of the Aspen Art Museum by introducing a symbolic— almost naïve—view of mountains to take over the whole architectural façade and allow the building to declare its situated identity from the surface. Realized as a three-dimensional structure from a figurative landscape drawing by Pesce, this new intervention binds the exterior
of the museum to its iconic surroundings and celebrates the natural features for which Aspen is known. The works featured in My Dear Mountains span over fifty years of production and experimentation in different techniques and mediums— from the iconic Yeti armchair drawing (1968) to a new series of Leaf Cabinets (2022) and My Mountains vases (2022), realized specially for the Aspen Art Museum and exhibited with unique flower arrangements by Eliza Ryan. Working primarily with polyurethane resin, Pesce’s designs exuberantly embrace figuration and color, challenging the physical properties of materials and valuing the aesthetic outcomes of imperfect gestures over rigorous standards. His works seek to give form to what he calls “the liquidity of our time”—a time whose nature is defined by continuous change, curiosity, uncertainty, and innovation. These principles are reflected and find expression in the use of fluid materials that allow the artist to pursue objects that, in his words, are sincere and truthful to their epoch.
Born in La Spezia, Italy, in 1939, Gaetano Pesce studied Architecture at the University of Venice between 1958 to 1963 and was a participant in Gruppo N, an early collective concerned with programmed art patterned after the Bauhaus. He taught architecture at the Institut d’Architecture et d’Etudes Urbaines in Strasbourg, France, for 28 years; Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh; Domus Academy in Milan; Polytechnic of Hong Kong; Architectural School of Sao Paulo; and the Cooper Union in New York City, where he has lived and worked since 1980. Pesce’s work can be found in the permanent collections of over 30 national and
international museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in both New York and San Francisco; Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; Vitra Museum in Germany; Pompidou Center and Musee des Arts Dé coratifs of Louvre in Paris; and Victoria and Albert Museum in London. His award-winning designs include the prestigious Chrysler Award for Innovation and Design in 1993, the Architektur and Wohnen Designer of the Year in 2006, and the Lawrence J. Israel Prize from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York in 2009. Gaetano Pesce is represented by Salon 94 Design.
Proceeds from the sale of these works support the Aspen Art Museum. For additional information and sales inquiries, please contact Jaclyn Carr at firstname.lastname@example.org or ask a member of staff.
Gaetano Pesce, Self Portrait Cabinet (medium model), 2022. Polyurethane resin. 9.5 × 7 × 2 in. Photo Clemens Kois. Courtesy the artist and Salon 94 Design
List of artworks
All works by Gaetano Pesce Courtesy the artist and Salon94 Design, unless otherwise stated
First of all, I would like to thank the Aspen community for hosting my work. My heartfelt thanks go to the Aspen Art Museum who found a way to create a sincere and innovative exhibition. With this preamble, I would like to introduce my outdoor installation. I have believed for a long time that architecture ought to be an art that respects and represents the place where it is erected. The legacy of International Style continues to exist, producing buildings that at this point belong exclusively to the decorative aspect of things and avoid documenting the reality they inhabit, its identity, geographical location, etc. In other words, many constructions which we call architecture belong instead to the category of edilizia (“building”). This is because the Art of Constructing has lost touch with the diverse realities of the world, and most architects give greater importance to the pursuit of an aesthetic and fashionable image with their projects. Regarding the project for the Aspen Art Museum, I found that its façade made from abstract grids was by no means representative of the magnificent and original nature of this urban site. So, at risk of achieving a kitschy image, I opted for a project that would cover the façade I criticize, replacing it with a view close to the one I admired during the many, memorable periods I spent in Aspen—the first city I visited in the United States in 1971 and where I had the pleasure to return over the years.
My Dear Mountains, 2022 Inkjet on vinyl, dye sublimation on nylon, led lights, blowers/fans. Courtesy the artist. Project supported by the Italian Council (2020)
Swamp Coffee Table, 2015 Papier-mâch , resin, and polyurethane foam 18.5 × 51.18 × 36.22 in.
The word “pesce” means “fish” in Italian, and conjures up a playful symbol that the artist likes to introduce into many of his works as a sculptural form as well as a nod to his own name. Swamp Coffee Table is shaped like a smiley fish, whose elaborate texture evokes the greenery of marshes and is achieved through the crafty combination of resin, papier-mâch , and foam.
Yeti armchair, 1968 Color crayons on paper 23.62 × 39.37 in.
Many of Pesce’s ideas first manifest as preparatory sketches and exploratory drawings, which provide an aesthetic and conceptual blueprint for the physical objects. Free from practical constraints, these germinal images show the full extent of the creative freedom driving the artistic process. While presenting one of Pesce’s earliest designs for a couch, the Yeti armchair also reflects on the inevitability of time as a passing, mutating force— a notion that underpins much of the artist’s work. Pesce’s Yeti chair stands tall amidst a bare, otherworldly landscape in the company of dinosaurs, creatures whose destiny is doomed. A human footprint marks someone’s fleeting presence, while birds in flight offer another image of impermanence. Casting its shadow to the ground, the Yeti armchair cannot withdraw from the flow of time either.
Mountain of Hearts, 2020 Resin 15.35 × 17.72 in.
Vases are favorite functional objects in Pesce’s oeuvre, providing the artist with a framework to develop and iterate different motifs. Hearts are a relatable symbol expressing love, friendship, and emotions.
Tree Vase Cipresso, 2016 Polyurethane resin and papier-mâch 39.37 × 9.84 × 9.84 in.
Pelle Burattino (Puppet Skin), 2019 Polyurethane resin 47.24 × 81.5 in.
Face Mirror, 2022 Polyurethane resin, mirror 77 × 27 × 1 in.
XXL Foot Vase, 2011 Polyurethane resin 36 × 43 × 37 in.
Inspired by the homonym tree, distinctive of Central Italian landscapes, Tree Vase Cipresso is a functional vase whose texture is achieved through the same technique as Swamp Coffee Table. Natural elements are a recurrent motif in Pesce’s work—not so much as a celebration of nature per se but rather as an exploration of the idiosyncrasies and irregular qualities of the surrounding reality.
In the artist’s words, “resin is the paper of our time.” Choosing this material is a way of asserting and embodying with sincerity the epoch that Pesce identifies with and belongs to. The artist approaches the bidimensional compositions of the Skins as figurative forms of storytelling which expand his radical pursuit of social and political expressions through design. In Pelle Burattino (Puppet Skin), a puppet is accompanied by a sentence in Italian, reading: “This figure supported by wires is the last one to still believe in equality…”.
Pesce seeks to create objects that can speak and convey emotions. Belonging to a new series of mirror pieces, Face Mirror resembles a large-scale hand-mirror with anthropomorphic qualities. The beholder’s reflection enters in conversation with this happy object, which Pesce defines a “positive form” conceived to counteract and provide relief from the heaviness and suffering of the present day.
This iconic piece is exemplary of Pesce’s experimental approach to the use of materials, and testifies to his productions being themselves forms of research into the physical properties of resin. In the case of the XXL Foot Vase, the particular resin employed allows for a twenty-five minute window before it turns rigid and becomes unworkable. It is by pushing the boundaries of what the material constraints allow that Pesce uniquely achieves this kind of aesthetic result on a large scale.
Friend Skin, 1995 Polyurethane resin 84 × 69 in.
Tavolo Pezzi Feltro (Felt Pieces Table), 2019 Felt, resin base wood, resin 28.86 × 32.17 × 57.09 in.
The earliest of the three Skins exhibited here, Friend Skin belongs to an ongoing series—including lamps and furniture—portraying friends and acquaintances through design objects. Echoing Pesce’s motto that “architecture should be a portrait of those who inhabit it,” these works remark the artist’s position in favor of the use of figuration and against seriality and conformity in design, seeking to endow each creation with a unique, unrepeatable character reflecting the diversity of society.
Este Skin, 2022 Polyurethane resin 95 × 36 in.
Display of materials from the artist’s studio in Brooklyn
According to Pesce, the original idea for this type of felt-based object came to him one day as he was walking down the street in New York and noticed some fabric in the gutter soaked with street water. Captured by the plasticity of the soft folds, the artist imagined the possibility of creating hard-bodied volumes using felt soaked into resin. Tavolo Pezzi Feltro is a testament to Pesce’s pioneering pursuit of innovative production techniques to activate rigidity within softness.
Este Skin is the most recent —and perhaps the most painterly—of the three Skins in the exhibition. The image of a child at the window stages Pesce’s distant childhood memory of traveling with his family to the city of Este, a small town in Veneto, Italy, located in proximity to mountains. The artist recalls standing by the window to look over the local, enchanting hilly landscape—a moment of contemplation of natural beauty that vividly came back to his mind while working on his project for Aspen.
Gaetano Pesce’s upcoming project for the Aspen Art Museum façade began as a drawing, which is displayed here with additional sketches for the exhibition catalogue and resin invite. The artist produces a bespoke resin invitation for each of his shows; a selection from the artist’s personal archive spanning the last fourty years is presented here. For My Dear Mountains, Pesce produced a special invite which also functions as a bracelet. Handmade scale models by the artist for the works Este Skin, Face Mirror, and Leaf Cabinet are also displayed on the shelves.
Three chairs from the Nobody’s Perfect series:
Tree Lamp, 2015-2022 Papier-mâch , foam, electrical 64.96 × 64.96 × 49.21 in.
Self Portrait Cabinet (medium model), 2022 Polyurethane resin 9.5 × 7 × 2 in.
Nobody’s Perfect Chair, 2022 Polyurethane resin 35.43 × 19.69 × 18.9 in. Nobody’s Perfect Chair, 2022 Polyurethane resin 37 × 20 × 19 in. Nobody’s Perfect Chair, 2022 Polyurethane resin 34 × 20 × 19 in.
Restored and reworked specially for this exhibition, Tree Lamp takes the organic forms of a tree trunk and its roots to create a chandelier attached to the gallery ceiling, as if growing through it.
Two Faces frame, 2021 Polyurethane resin Two sizes: 12 × 12 × 2.5 in. 6.5 × 13 × 1.33 in.
Breaking repetitive patterns of fabrication is at the heart of Pesce’s creative vision, as seen in his landmark body of work Nobody’s Perfect, first launched in 2002, which established the notion of “diversified series.” Objects cast from the same mold remain individually unique as aesthetic choices are entrusted to the aleatory combination of different shades and volumes of resin in the fabrication process, creating unrepeatable colors and textures each time.
Leaf Cabinet, 2022 Polyurethane resin 84 × 38.5 × 16.75 in.
The exhibition features three Leaf Cabinets in red, blue, and yellow, specially realized for the Aspen Art Museum. Originating from a handmade scale model by the artist (see display 9), these cabinets develop out of Pesce’s interest in pushing the material to unknown boundaries (a “self-imposed” challenge, in his words). The resin employed for this production reaches a very high temperature during its catalyzation, nearing self-combustion. After pouring the resin into the mold, it is left to cool down with the aid of fans for over twelve hours. These shelf units become spectacular monoliths—rewards of an extreme and fearless production process.
My Mountains, 2022 Polyurethane, felt 15.75 × 6 × 6 in. Unique in a series of 25
Two cabinets in the hallway:
Leaf Cabinet, 2022 Polyurethane resin 84 × 31 × 15 in. Leaf Cabinet, 2022 Polyurethane resin 84 × 38.5 × 16.75 in.
On the occasion of his exhibition My Dear Mountains at the Aspen Art Museum, Gaetano Pesce has created a limited series of 25 unique vases inspired by Aspen’s natural landscape with the title My Mountains. Floral arrangements in the exhibition are by Eliza Ryan.
Jeanne Chair, 2022 Polyurethane resin 30 × 17 × 20 in.
Named after Jeanne Greenberg, this chair belongs to a “differentiated series” combining rigidity and softness at once. Similar to the Nobody’s Perfect series, the Jeanne Chair is produced by mixing and folding flat elements that hold together, seemingly magically.
Gaetano Pesce, Yeti armchair, 1968. Color crayons on paper. 23.62 × 39.37 in. Photo Clemens Kois. Courtesy the artist and Salon 94 Design
Gaetano Pesce, My Mountains, 2022. Polyurethane, felt. Unique in a series of 25. 15.75 × 6 × 6 in. Photo Clemens Kois. Courtesy the artist and Salon 94 Design
Gaetano Pesce, Two Faces frame, 2021. Polyurethane resin, 12 × 12 × 2.5 in. Photo Clemens Kois. Courtesy the artist and Salon 94 Design.
ABOUT THE ASPEN ART MUSEUM
AAM exhibitions are made possible by the Marx Exhibition Fund. General exhibition support is provided by the Toby Devan Lewis Visiting Artist Fund. Further support is provided by the AAM National Council. My Dear Mountains is supported by the Italian Council, Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity, Italian Ministry of Culture.
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums in 1979, the Aspen Art Museum is a thriving and globally engaged non-collecting contemporary art museum. Following the 2014 opening of the museum’s facility designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Shigeru Ban, the AAM enjoys increased attendance, renewed civic interaction, and international media attention. In July 2017, the AAM was one of ten institutions to receive the United States’ National Medal for Museum and Library Services for its educational outreach to rural communities in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley and its fostering of learning partnerships with civic and cultural partners within a 100-mile radius of the museum’s Aspen location.
My Dear Mountains is curated by Stella Bottai, Curator at Large, and its organization is supported by Salon 94 Design.
ASPEN ART MUSEUM
Nancy and Bob Magoon Director Nicola Lees
Assistant Curator Simone Krug
Exhibitions Director Kate Marra
Installation Managers Eric Angus Charlie Childress
Assistant Registrar Susan Martin
Aspen Art Museum 637 East Hyman Avenue Aspen, Colorado 81611
Special Projects Assistant Courtney Kenny
Editor Monica Adame Davis
aspenartmuseum.org (970) 925-8050
Hours Tuesday–Sunday, 10 AM–6 PM Closed Mondays Admission to the AAM is free courtesy of Amy and John Phelan.
Cover: Gaetano Pesce, My Dear Mountains, 2022. Installation view at Aspen Art Museum. Courtesy the Artist. Photo Adrianna Glaviano. Project supported by the Italian Council.Page 1 Page 2-3 Page 4-5 Page 6-7 Page 8-9 Page 10-11 Page 12
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