A New Exhibit Puts the Work of Ettore Sottsass in Dialogue with Three Contemporary Talents
The show at New York’s Yossi Milo Gallery features pieces by the irreverent designer alongside John Gill, Daniel Gordon, and Emily Mullin
Founder of the Memphis Group, a design movement of the 1980s defined by the proliferation of saturated colors and abstract forms, Ettore Sottsass created vibrant furniture, glassware, ceramics, and other whimsical objects eagerly sought after by collectors today. And his influence on contemporary talents is far reaching.
Now, a new exhibition, on view at New York’s Yossi Milo Gallery through August 19, explores the connection between the architect, designer, and creative provocateur and three artists working today. Concentrating on the notion of building, the presentation, “RGB: John Gill, Daniel Gordon, Emily Mullin, and Ettore Sottsass,” also nods to the red, green, and blue color system used in early computer and television screens.
Placed in dialogue throughout the gallery, the pieces examine the ideas of construction, both materially and conceptually. The work of Brooklyn artist Daniel Gordon transforms the traditional still life using analog and digital processes. Gordon finds images of everyday objects online, printing them on paper and then cutting them out before arranging them in a three-dimensional tableau that he photographs with a large-format camera.
His works in the exhibition adhere to the RGB palette, reflecting Sottsass’s preference for bright colors and graphic patterns. With its jolts of electric blue, his Blue Still Life with White Peonies, Eggs and Onions (2019), a pigment print with UV lamination, makes the kind of setting viewers would commonly discover in a kitchen look surreal.
From her studio in Brooklyn, Emily Mullin creates multi-media sculptures encompassing brightly colored and heavily patterned ceramic vases and steel shelves of her own design; each playful vessel is finished with live flowers. It’s Mullin’s palette and interpretation of historical forms that most strongly connects to Sottsass’s work, as his glass and ceramic pieces frequently inspired by ancient vessels. Red I (2022), a cherry-colord, raku-fired vase with intricate handles, is filled with leafy branches while the artist’s xtravaganza I (2022) is a study in green, with two chartreuse vessels bursting with feathery stalks perched on a blue, powder-coated steel shelf.
An established ceramic artist whose work is in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, John Gill teaches at Alfred University, which is renowned for its school for ceramics. Color and pattern are common in his oeuvre, but three of the pieces in this exhibition—each made from slabs of clay and all with the title Triptych—merge totem-like vessels into architectonic compositions that relate to Sottsass’s work of the 1970s and ’80s.
Finally, Sottsass himself is represented by two colorful glass mirrors made by the Italian company Glas Italia, a blue glass vase from Fontana Arte, a bookcase made of wood and plastic laminate from 1980, and two blown-glass pieces on tall bases from the late ’90s, made by Cenedese. These works, particularly the vase and the bookcase, evoke Sottsass’s contributions to Memphis, with their bold forms and emphatic colors.
The exhibition offers a variety of approaches, but with a common thread of color, texture, and pattern the compilation is both provocative and refreshing.
“RGB: John Gill, Daniel Gordon, Emily Mullin, and Ettore Sottsass” is on view through August 19 at Yossi Milo Gallery, 245 Tenth Avenue, New York.