In his half-century as an architect and designer, Gaetano Pesce has designed shelves that look like the Twin Towers, armchairs that look like mountain ranges, and 61 individual tables that together, form the shape of the Italian peninsula. Love it or hate it, Pesce has a flair for the figural, plucking imagery from the world around him and applying it to objects. As a former member of the much-vilified PoMo group Memphis, once described as "a shotgun wedding between Bauhaus and Fisher-Price," his work is stridently populist. "Art used to speak to everybody," he told Index in 2004. "Now it talks to a small group, and the rest of society doesn’t really use or consume art. But people still need objects."
Next month, the 73-year-old New York transplant will debut his latest work, Six Tables on Water, at David Gill Gallery in London. Each table was sculpted to look like a different body of water: an ocean, a lagoon, a river, a lake, a pond, and a puddle. The scale is roughly what you’d see from a plane—about 30,000 feet above earth. Pesce fabricated the pieces by hand, mixing resin, paint, and foam. As one commenter points out, the series owes much to Michael Ashkin, who makes similar resin tabletops that look like parking lots and lakes. Pesce’s limited-edition tables are incredibly realistic, right down to tiny details like a wooden dock, and a series of sandbars. And amazingly, he hopes people will actually use them.
"For the past 30 years, I have been trying to give architecture back its capacity to be 'useful,' by quoting recognizable, figurative images commonly associated with street life and popular culture, and by generating new typologies," he writes on his website. "Architecture of the recent past has mostly produced cold, anonymous, monolithic, antiseptic, standardized results that are uninspiring. I have tried to communicate feelings of surprise, discovery, optimism, stimulation, sensuality, generosity, joy, and femininity."
As a middle-aged designer, Pesce was an expressionist, making furniture filled with distorted human faces, melted and colorful. But as he’s gotten older, his work has focused in on realistic portrayals of the natural world. At Milan Design Week in 2009, he debuted a series of couches and chairs covered in digital images of nature, like a massive sofa printed with clouds and a loveseat covered in a majestic mountain range. Three years later, with Six Tables, it seems he’s digging even deeper into hyperrealism.
Six Tables will be on view at David Gill Gallery from October 4th until December 22nd.