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Dismissed For 43 Years, A Cheeky Gaetano Pesce Design Finally Comes To Life

The SculptureCenter exhibition Anthea Hamilton: Lichen! Libido! Chastity! is “a call and response to the building.”

Only Gaetano Pesce—the legendary designer who rose to fame in the 1980s thanks to his work in furniture and architecture—would propose an Upper East Side skyscraper entrance that looks like a very realistic, cheeks-spread butt. Unsurprisingly, his 1972 concept didn’t come to fruition. But today, at the hand of British artist Anthea Hamilton, it has been fully realized in all its nude glory

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Lichen! Libido! Chastity! is Hamilton’s first solo exhibition in the United States and in it she explores cultural appropriation. “The show is about responding to the Center’s architecture and the industrial space,” she says. “It was a call and response to the building.”

During her research phase, Hamilton came across a photo of Pesce’s model for the doorway and became fascinated with how it embodied something that’s emotional, radical, and psychological—not just something “designed.” She approached Pesce to build it and he was game.

“I’d say that it’s almost like an anchor for viewers to consider to look at the space, and change their perception of the space,” Hamilton says. “It’s a scale, a measure to place their own bodes in relation to the work. It’s large, but there are also smaller works in the show. You begin to question, ‘What is human size?'”

To create the design, Hamilton worked with Holly Stanton, the exhibitions and programs manager at the museum. Pesce’s live model was a well-known architect whose identity was never revealed. In keeping with that spirit, Hamilton invited a well-known cultural figure to have their derriere 3-D scanned and sculpted for the installation.

“It was a challenge integrating the various digital and analog elements of the production: translating the original black and white image of Pesce’s model into digital mockups, capturing a live model and digitally sculpting a figure that would then be sculpted by hand, installed by hand, seamed and painted by hand,” Stanton says. “It was interesting discovering the ways these processes enabled or challenged one another, but every step was important to the artist’s adaptation.”

When asked about the brave soul who had their rear 3-D scanned and built, Stanton demurred. “That’s a secret,” she says. “We have some sense of modesty!”

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Head to the SculptureCenter until January 4, 2016, to catch Anthea Hamilton: Lichen! Libido! Chastity!.

About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.

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