FORM FOLLOWS MEANING (II)

SEPTEMBER 09 - MARCH 31, 2022
ON SHOW AT
ZAHA HADID RESIDENCES

VIA SENOFONTE 2/A, CITYLIFE
20145 MILAN
ITALY

Espinasse31 Contemporary Art Gallery is pleased to present ‘Art Meets Design’, a two-part group exhibition featuring works by seven artists, on show from September 9 to October 31. Since its beginnings, the gallery has intently focused on the intersection between fine art and other creative disciplines, such as fashion—as spotlighted in its 2017 group exhibition ‘Art Fucks Fashion’, May 2017—and now design. This comes at a time when the city of Milan once again becomes the international capital of innovation, creativity, and beauty; after a year and a half on stand by, the historical Salone del Mobile returns for its 2021 edition.

The reopening of Espinasse31 Contemporary Art Gallery for a new season honours this exciting milestone. The gallery, whose focus on highlighting its design projects and those of its artists has recently grown, announces its first-ever group exhibition featuring both artworks and furniture pieces in its Milan gallery space (Viale Carlo Espinasse 31), as well as an installation of sculptural works in its temporary exhibition space, the Zaha Hadid Residences in CityLife Milano (Via Senofonte 2/A)

This time last year, Espinasse31 inaugurated its first exhibition at the Zaha Hadid Residences. Titled ‘Form Follows Meaning’, it was the gallery’s first venture into the world of beauty and harmony that emerges when fine art meets architecture and design. With the anniversary of this breakthrough for the gallery coinciding with a special edition of Milan Design Week, the second Espinasse31 exhibition at Residenze Hadid is twice as significant and inspiring. The residential complex, besides being one of the city’s masterpieces of modern architecture, is located in the same district as Salone del Mobile, making the event all the more unmissable for design enthusiasts in Milan this month. 

With this particular context in mind, the second part of ‘Art Meets Design’ by Espinasse31 takes the organic approach of placing art within design, rather than in parallel to it. Sculptures by three gallery artists—Oscar Estruga, Nella Ryder, and Antonella Mellini—are presented against the same architectural backdrop, and distinguished in terms of process and medium. Classical svelte figures in bronze, enigmatic mask sketches in steel, and lighthearted contemporary symbols in styrofoam: all coexist in conversation with each other, while also residing in their own auras and undercurrents. This creates a contrast similar to the one that naturally occurs when placing an artwork inside of a home.

The selected work by Oscar Estruga for this exhibition is, without a doubt, the epitome of such contrast. The Spanish artist, born in 1933, developed most of his sculptural body of work between the 1960s and 80s; often borrowing from Greek and Cycladic mythology, he can be defined as an artist who reinvents Ancient worlds through his calligraphic imagination. The monumental ‘Máscara 3’, exhibited by Espinasse31, was created in 1988. Although this is decades apart from the inauguration of Zaha Hadid Residences in 2014, and the turn of the century is clearly palpable between both works, the weight of time is especially heightened through differences in material. The heavy, aged, and textured bronze of Estruga’s sculpture is antithetical to the airy, modern, and sleek interiors of the building. However, instead of clashing, this creates a fulfilling union of opposites: the building provides a relieving space for the sculpture, while the sculpture adds substance and character to the building. This shows how art and design naturally feed on each other, even when belonging to different ages.

On the other hand, works by Nella Ryder show how art and design pieces can communicate in interesting ways and convey unexpected messages, even when sharing some formal characteristics. The British multidisciplinary artist—with a background that encompasses music, fashion, and the visual arts—takes after her mother, the prolific sculptor Sophie Ryder, in creating emotional works with a strong character and a mysterious allure. Ryder’s assertive use of steel and sharp edges carves out feminine faces marked by dainty features; this contradiction shows the complex duality of both womanhood and romantic relationships, also reflected through the double mask motif that is recurrent in her work. It is here that one can appreciate the inherent conflict of the artist’s sculptures, which appear to be ‘flat’ at first sight. Despite sharing some aesthetic features with the design of Zaha Hadid Residences—clean lines, vague use of colour, a certain minimalism—the works of Nella Ryder recall the internal chaos of unresolved emotions, while the space around them portrays serenity and balance in its purest form. Once again, Espinasse31 exhibits how the combination of art and design effortlessly produces a state of equilibrium.

Finally, a more conceptual proposition is that of Antonella Mellini. Through a series of symbolic sculptures, the Italian contemporary artist translates her signature style—essential, uniform, clearly delineated—into the three-dimensional plane. Through her process, Mellini aims to eliminate the space-time connotation of physical artworks, making them immortal reflections of her views on society. Her medium of choice, enamel on styrofoam, gives them a light demeanour and materiality; this is juxtaposed with the sculptures’ marble bases, which anchor and ground her ideas, both physically and symbolically. Key to Mellini’s artistic practice are the use of colour psychology and a layering process; this fills her works with intricacies, hidden matter, and hidden messages. Propped up against the blank canvas offered by Zaha Hadid’s spotless interiors, Mellini’s latest sculptures are granted a centre stage position, serving as a visual stimulus and point of reflection for the viewer. 

All in all, in this second part of Form Follows Meaning II, Espinasse31 presents a unique encounter between a giant of architectural design and three contemporary sculptors. Focusing on the ideas of contrast, equilibrium, and dialogue, the exhibition sheds light on the common essence shared by art and design, as carriers of beauty and vehicles to fulfilment. By placing art within design, the gallery displays the alluring vitality of sculpture, while underlining the unconditional quality of good design.

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OSCAR ESTRUGA

Máscara 3, 1980s

Bronze.

Ed. 2/2.

120 x 80 x 40 cm (46.8 x 31.2 x 15.6 in).

NELLA RYDER

Flower Girl, 2017

Steel and acrylic paint.

60 x 35 cm (23.4 x 13.65 in).

ANTONELLA MELLINI

BLOCKCHAIN, 2017

Enamel on styrofoam; marble base.

138 x 80 x 30 cm (53.8 x 31.2 x 11.7 in).

Art Meets Design (II) is open from September 9 at Zaha Hadid Residences (CityLife): Via Senofonte 2/A, 20145 Milan. BOOK A VISIT

Thomas Castiglioni
Gallery Manager
thomas@espinasse31.com

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