February 23–April 17, 2017
Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Villa Croce, Genova
Via Jacopo Ruffini 3
Hours: Thursday–Friday 12–7pm,
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Curated by Joseph Grima and Andrea Bagnato
The Villa Croce Museum of Contemporary Art presents the first monographic exhibition on the work of Cesare Leonardi (Italian, b. 1935). In the course of a career spanning more than four decades Leonardi, an architect and photographer, has continuously challenged the boundary between design and artistic practice. In spite of the recognition gained by his early furniture design, most of Leonardi’s oeuvre has remained little known, even within Italy. Cesare Leonardi: Strutture sheds light on an intimate yet multifaceted body of work. The exhibition draws from the collection of Archivio Cesare Leonardi in Modena, featuring a selection of works that for the most part have never been on display outside his hometown. On the historical backdrop of Villa Croce, the show explores the three broad topics that preoccupied Leonardi throughout his career—chairs, shadows, and trees.
In parallel with the acclaimed furniture designs of the 1960s (the Rocking Chair, designed with Franca Stagi in 1967, was a centerpiece in the influential MoMA exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape), Leonardi embarked on a 20-year-long project to redraw various common trees in order to provide a new visual tool for landscape designers. The result was a group of more than 360 hand-inked scale drawings, later collected in the book L’Architettura degli Alberi. This poetic and obsessive body of work led to a series of landscape projects based on the idea of decentralized and non-hierarchical networks.
In the 1980s, reacting to the oil crisis that made fiberglass no longer sustainable for mass production, Leonardi began working with simple timber boards. Decontextualized and assembled according to increasingly complex patterns, the yellow boards became a new furniture series termed Solidi. These are veritable sculptures in which Leonardi explores the idea of an infinite permutation of the same element.
Cesare Leonardi: Strutture is a journey inside Leonardi’s extraordinary body of work where, in spite of the ever-shifting scales of design, there remains a permanent tension between work of art and craftsmanship and between single element and structure.
Cesare Leonardi was born in Modena in 1935. After graduating in architecture in Florence, he returned to Modena and opened an atelier in partnership with Franca Stagi. Together they completed several projects in the fields of interior design, landscape design and architecture, among which a swimming centre in Vignola (1975) and Parco Amendola in Modena (1981). Some of their design pieces are in the permanent collection of major institutions including The Museum of Modern Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Leonardi published several books, including L’Architettura degli Alberi with Franca Stagi (Milano: Mazzotta, 1982), Il Duomo di Modena: Atlante Fotografico (Modena: Panini, 1985) and Solidi/Solids (Modena: Logos, 1995).
The exhibition at Villa Croce will be followed by a retrospective at Galleria Civica di Modena, scheduled to open in September 2017.