Wednesday 29 August 2012


'Form follows Function' exhibition views at Estudio Aldo Chaparro

Rodrigo Chamizo & Enrique Giner de los Ríos, Untitled (trunks), 2012

Johnatan Molina, Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue, 2012

Marcos Castro & Eduardo Lopez, Untitled, (Kati), 2012

Aldo Chaparro, untitled, 2012
Patrick Nagel, poster, 1981

Aldo Chaparro, Untitled (Singular instant of casual beauty), 2012
stuffed Guacamaya on Ettore Sottsass'Treetops lamp (1981)

Andrew Birk, Paintings For Guest Bedrooms, 2012

Adriana Minoliti, Queer Deco series, 2011

Andrew Birk, Hand-towel for Memphis Enthusiasts, 2011

Estudio Aldo Chaparro presents
Adriana Minoliti
Enrique Giner + Rodrigo Chamizo
Eduardo Lopez + Marcos Castro
Johnatan Molina
Aldo Chaparro
Andrew Birk
Marco Granados

an exhibition around the ideas of Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis group


When ornament is not (just) a crime.
text by Marco Granados

"I'm bored with music between 1955 and 1980,
I can`t listen to a rock and roll record;
I would rather listen to hogs screwing."

Rarely has it been so appropriate as now to revisit the 80s revisionism that – in manner so steeped in post-modernism – we have yet to fully understand but that we nevertheless take for granted. The 80s were indeed convulsive and risky, rife with the complexities so singular and, above all, so kitsch that they were mesmerizing. The arrival of AIDS within a conservative context brought the tumult into focus; rock gave way to pop and doing so brought about the birth of MTV; even as Mexico remained under the Televisa Empire. This was never clearer than when the nation, and the capital above all, tumbled to the ground on Sept. 19, 1985, on live television, in full color.

The Cold War had begun to thaw, and the Berlin Wall began to crumble. Gay culture burst boldly onto the stage, and in parallel, came the rise of bodybuilding, becoming a way of life driven mainly by Hollywood-style cinema. By then, the nihilism and debauchery embodied in the substances that enriched Colombian and Mexican cartels had come to dominate. Yuppies spent money, generating debts that have yet to be paid; rockers evaded all the taxes they could; guys with big hair passed themselves off as philanthropists; unending festivals filled with sickly-sweet songs dedicated to blackness. And wasn’t this how it had to be? Those were the 80s.

Elsewhere, there is the 1980 edition of the Venice Biennale where Harald Szeemann and Achille Bonito Oliva invented the Aperto section with the inclusion of emergent artists, giving them a voice and aiming to diversify in many ways the content of the, by then, tired event.

Even more interesting is the fact that, that same year, in that same Venice –slightly less hot and stinky than the one that exists today- the Architecture exhibition was for the first time opened. One single word can be used to describe the general consensus about that first Architecture Biennale: failure. This is no small feat if we consider that architecture and design are the clearest gauges to measure any society, specially the postmodern ones.

The charges revolved around the way the representational structures were being understood, even though, it must be said, there was one redeeming point: the general premise that assumed Postmodernity to be a clear stance against modernity, but not from a conservative perspective, but from a new critical appropriation of the modern project. A posture, so to speak, that defined “the modern” in a very unequivocal way and opened this idea to a non-fixed interpretation of the historical reference, now in constant movement oscillating between the new, the newest, and what is fashionable.

It’s precisely in this juncture that Memphis appears: an Italian movement composed by designers, architects, and writers officially started on December 11, 1980, under the tutelage of Ettore Sottsass, and following one of the strangest and most convoluted songs by Bob Dylan. We hear the Minnesotan, his screeching voice, singing at the end of the song:

"An' here I sit so patiently waiting to find out what price
you have to pay to get out of going through all these things twice.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
to be stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again"
Bob Dylan, “Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again”

From the very beginning, Memphis chose a vibrant and colorful answer to the sterilized and boring standpoints of art, design and architecture within this era of minimalism and conceptualism. Memphis opted for a more playful approach, for the return to individualism as an antidote against homogenization. It was a dare in the face of those who gave the order that form should be a secondary trait, and that only function should prevail; even worse, those that suggested that objects should disappear. A kingdom of terror where concept was dogma.

Away from the mainstream of “good design”, Memphis allowed themselves to come and go freely through all trends existing, they blatantly mixed classicism with pre-modernism with modernism, and they were, no doubt, part of the craftsmen of the playfully explosive eighties’ aesthetic. They mixed forms and materials, but more importantly they always were very conscious of the risks involved in designing each and every one of their pieces of furniture, accessories and other items. But, contrary to what it may seem, Memphis’ postulates took two very different routes, on one hand, they were certain the starting point of the creative process was a very serious joke; on the other hand, they developed a series of formal research routes that advocated the inclusion of concepts, forms and materials that, in the end, always have a meaning, always reveal something; their starting point was the inside, and they used that as an opposing point to the external, the alien.

The multiple tools Memphis used to evolve delved in almost every field of the day-to-day, and they were so pervasive that, even if we didn’t know the details, almost everyone knew –directly or indirectly- their postulates. Their lifespan was as brief as it was necessary; paradoxically when the group disbanded some of their many collaborators made the whole idea grow. All this ended up spawning an extension of their aesthetic ideas, which grew well beyond the 90s and that even now survive.

“Function Follows Form” aims to give a new twist, a new approach, to the ideas and work of Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis movement from a standpoint that comes from the visual arts, but flirts with architecture and design, and that makes inquiries and experiments in an appropriate environment that, perhaps, aims to encourage future revisionist endeavors for this and other, similar, subjects that have been erroneously understood, or that are unknown. The exhibition’s name toys with this concept, but twists the meaning of the favorite quote of designers and architects ever since the post-war era: Form follows function.

To mirror it also intends to mirror the meaning of things. To cast virtuosity aside and start over from the foundational point of creating forms, using a clearly outrageous, silly, and provocative aesthetic. To do this in an independent space, in this collaborative sense, also brings the project close to the ideas of Memphis and, of course, the fact that the space is unprecedented opens new and necessary distribution channels within a structure that sometimes seems stagnant, prudish or self-indulgent.


  1. Enjoyed your comments about the Memphis movement and design ethos. I am a Memphis design collector planning a museum exhibition in 2014.