Como, at the Pinacoteca Civica an exhibition on Ico and Luisa Parisi

The Pinacoteca Civica di Como dedicates an exhibition to Ico and Luisa Parisi, some of the most eclectic and prolific figures in Italian design and design research since the postwar period.

From December 22, 2022 to May 28, 2023, the Pinacoteca Civica di Como is holding the exhibition Universo Parisi in its first-floor rooms. The Glass and Ceramics of Ico and Luisa, curated by Roberta Lietti and the exhibition project by Cristiana Lopes and Giacomo Brenna. The figure of Domenico (Ico) Parisi is among the most eclectic and creatively prolific in the panorama of Italian design research since the postwar period. Palermo-born but Como-born by adoption, Parisi, trained in Giuseppe Terragni’s studio, has been working in an interdisciplinary dimension since the late 1930s, ranging from being an architect and designer but also an art director, photographer, film director, painter and pure artist.

Central, even in his professional life, was the figure of his wife Luisa Aiani with whom he opened, in April 1948, the studio La Ruota in Via Diaz in Como, a landmark, design and cultural coterie of the city’s artistic life. From La Ruota pass Fausto Melotti, Bruno Munari, Lucio Fontana, Mario Radice and, at the same time, Luisa integrates Ico’s furnishings and the works of her artist friends, the result of an avant-garde creative language, with small antiques, antique silverware and 20th-century glass that “tame” the most radical ideas, perhaps aware that the revolution in the taste of living can take place in Italy only through small steps. Soon, however, to these objects, found in the artists’ studios or at some antiquarian’s, Parisi and Luisa added their own creations, the result of their collaboration with skilled masters of glass and ceramics, small pieces of art that are the theme of this exhibition.

In fact, with about 100 works on display from the Pinacoteca’s collections and from private lenders, the exhibition traces the Parisi’s research into the minor arts, from glass to ceramics, as an expression of modern and functional choices of objects and furnishings. Thus were born, as early as the mid-1960s, the first designs of Murano glass vases, of elementary and essential form, made by the Barovier&Toso art glassworks. On display is the first glass designed by Parisi in 1956 and reworked in the 1970s: an elegant tall cylindrical-shaped floor vase, colored and shaded, supported by a brushed steel base. This early glass was joined by the “Luisa cachepots,” a series of blue, green, and white transparent glass buckets played on a perfect ratio between diameter and height and, in the years to follow, the ornament sculptures called “cruel glass”: small works of art with a strongly conceptual meaning characterized by contrast in the use of materials. The best-known sculpture in this series, featured in the exhibition, is undoubtedly the hyperrealist “polenta” in yellow glass paste, complete with a fork included.

The design of glass art is flanked by his experience with ceramics, which began with the meeting Parisi had in the early 1960s with Pompeo Pianezzola, an artist and art director of one of the most historic artistic ceramics manufacturers in the Vicenza area, Zanolli&Sebellin. For them he designed a series of objects played on solid geometric shapes such as the cube, sphere and cone that seem to evoke, in their simplicity, children’s games. An ironic and original “pop” ceramic characterized by strong and contrasting color choices: white clashing with bright red, overlapping colored cubes, comic strips, eyes, and Marylin’s red lips that showcase Parisi’s attraction (almost obsessive) for the human body. Examples are the Mouth vase, the Eyes spheres, the vase sculpture and the Imprint bowl that reproduce, in positive and negative, the drawing of a hand. Subsequent by a few years and present in the solo exhibition are two containers (a photographic development bowl and a large asymmetrical bowl) made in collaboration with Giuliano Collina, in which Parisi actively intervenes by pouring color onto the object, and a series of vases, also in ceramic, characterized by the insertion of one or more stainless steel bands.

The last glimpse of the exhibition itinerary is turned to the late 1980s and early 1990s with a return of Parisi to architecture and design, after a break of more than a decade mainly devoted to utopian-existential research through numerous artistic experiences (exhibitions and installations) culminating in the interdisciplinary project Operazione Arcevia, presented at the 76th Venice Biennale in 1976. To this last period dates the conception of a series of new ceramic objects executed in collaboration with Giorgio Robustelli’s Fornace Ibis: cups, plates, tureens (broken, punctured, bent, all deliberately unusable) up to radios (Zanuso’s very famous Cubo ) inhabited by grotesque characters or open-mouthed creatures, sometimes more disturbing than ironic, with the flavor of faithful companions of daily life. These are joined by marvelous new glass objects such as glasses-flowers, animals, fantastic characters-made thanks to the meeting with Pino Signoretto, a great master and interpreter of Murano glass, objects that document, once again, the continuity that exists in Parisi’s work between the different forms of application of creativity.

As a corollary to the exhibition, in the more private and intimate area of Campo Quadro, one can admire the rarely exhibited portraits of Ico and Luisa Parisi. The two works, lent by their heirs for the occasion, were part of the Parisi home’s furnishings, as evidenced by period photos. Luisa, a young woman in her thirties, is portrayed by her husband Ico, while Ico is the subject of a caricature work executed by Giuseppe Terragni in the late 1930s. The peculiarity of these paintings is related to the Como tradition of ancient portraiture (of which the Pinacoteca has numerous examples in particular traceable to the Paolo Giovio collection) but also to the habit of the artists and architects of the so-called Como Group of portraying each other. In this regard, see the recent donation of the portrait of Mario Radice executed by Giuseppe Terragni displayed in the permanent room dedicated to Radice.

“Words are not needed to describe Ico Parisi,” comments Culture Councillor Enrico Colombo, “also because architects speak through another language: that of drawing. The exhibition, curated by Roberta Lietti and the Museums sector of the Municipality of Como, retraces this form of language by going deeper into one of the lesser known and more intimate aspects of Parisi’s Work, namely his relationship with his wife Luisa and their drawing on glass and ceramics. For the municipal administration, it is an honor to offer to the Como community, and to those who will come to the Pinacoteca, the lesser-known, and perhaps more iconic, work of one of the protagonists of our history, a pillar of the movement that helped draw Como’s name in the History of Art and Architecture.”

“The exhibition unveils precious works donated by Parisi himself to the Municipal Administration in 1995 and is part of the planned journey of enhancing the value of Como masters, including those of adoption, launched in 2019 by the Pinacoteca with exhibitions dedicated to Giuseppe Terragni and the Asilo Sant’Elia, Mario Radice and his relationship with architecture, and Manlio Rho and his archive,” says Veronica Vittani, Head of the Pinacoteca. “The exhibition will be followed by a work of exhibition revision of the space dedicated to him in the twentieth century section, as already happened for the new Terragni and Radice rooms.”

The Pinacoteca in fact preserves, in addition to the glass and ceramics that are the subject of the exhibition, a substantial number of works by Ico and Luisa Parisi, forming part of a fund that contemplates photographs, sketches, sketches, drawings, paintings, furniture and archival documents.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog published by Silvana Editoriale.

Hours: Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Dec. 25, 26 and Jan. 1. Open Jan. 6. Dec. 24 and 31 hours 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets: Full rate € 5.00 | Reduced rate/groups € 3.00 | Cumulative ticket € 12.00 | Family pass € 12.00

Info: tel. +39 031 269869 - -

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Image: Ico and Luisa Parisi, Occhio (1966)

Como, at the Pinacoteca Civica an exhibition on Ico and Luisa Parisi
Como, at the Pinacoteca Civica an exhibition on Ico and Luisa Parisi

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