On February 14, Radical: Italian Design 1965-1985, The Dennis Freedman Collection will be on view at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. This exhibit will showcase close to 70 pieces from Freedman’s personal collection. The former Creative Director of W Magazine, Dennis is considered the preeminent collector of the movement. He has generously donated and loaned items to the MFAH (with the museum also purchasing pieces from the collection). The MFAH is the only museum in America to show this exhibition before traveling to the Yale School of Architecture in the Fall of 2021.
The Dennis Freedman Collection
The exhbition consists primarily of furniture and lighting, with a small portion being paintings, objects, and architectural models. This wonderfully innovative exhibit will also have a very familiar mainstay: our very own Founder and Creative Director, Laura Umansky. We are thrilled to announce that Laura has partnered with the MFAH and will be sharing her perspective on the exhibit throughout its run (February 14 – April 26). As an interior designer, Laura will give a rare look into this explosion of experimental design that has been overlooked by many.
“I studied architecture in Italy and this was a new period of design that I hadn’t heard of before,” says Laura. “I was surprised, inspired, and excited by what I saw in the Radical: Italian Design catalogue. And I was not expecting to have such a close connection to the exhibit in this way. I am honored that the museum reached out to me and invited me to preview the collection.”
What is Radical Italian Design?
Radical Design was influenced by previous art movements such as Arte Povera and Pop Art, and sprang from the consumerism devotees felt defined the post-war era. What you’ll see at the museum is an exploration of objects that defy mass-production, practicality, and even, the American Dream. Cindi Strauss, Curator of the exhibit, explains that, “the imaginative designs of the period explored form, color, and scale, and took advantage of burgeoning technological advances in materials and processes to develop a new language of design that had an outsized influence on design history.”
We will discover the exhibit through Laura’s eye as we follow along with her in video tours and social media posts. Our goal is to use Laura’s unique perspective as a residential interior designer to provide contemporary context on the items in the collection. “This is an important and influential movement that I don’t think many people are aware of,” Laura says. “I cannot wait to see it in person.”
What is she looking forward to? We preview her must-see pieces below.
Designed in 1971, the Pratone (meadow) lounger is a place to recline in supportive, polyurethane blades of grass. The object’s bold color and interesting shape make it stand out. “The color alone makes such a statement,” says Laura. “You look at it and wonder what in the world this is. And what do you actually do with it?”
MGM Table Lamp
Based on the metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) logo and stretching 3 feet, this iconic lamp removes the powerful influence of a legendary lion and replaces it with what the designer, Lapo Binazzi, refers to as an “umbrella.” Laura explains that this piece is one she would use today for a design project. “This looks Art Deco, very Old Hollywood,” says Laura.
Upholstered in blue terrycloth, this small-scale model has four interlocking sections that show myriad ways to lounge. The actual “Rumble” was produced by Gufram, an Italian furniture manufacturer, and is an interesting study in dynamic furnishings. Laura explains that the “configurations are based on the site and room, as opposed to a mass-produced design.”
Designed by Gaetano Pesce in 1969, the “UP7” is a polyurethane foam foot that, in Laura’s opinion, gives a nod to mass production. “What makes it an individual is the subject matter and grand scale,” says Laura.
Follow along with us beginning February 13th. And be sure to follow the MFAH on Instagram!
** Featured image courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston