Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Piero Fornasetti's plates of Lina Cavalieri

While Bruce High Quality Foundation's works are laden with ironic references and subtext, they still stem from a reverential sincerity ­for the art history/theory canon. They do want to have their cake and eat it too; they rebel against the institution, but this rebellion is what makes them art stars within the institution to begin with. But I do sympathize with them in that everything has been seemingly done, and, given that, how does one go about doing something important in relation?

I was most drawn to that BHQF image of the plates shielding the faces, which to me seemed an interesting visual counterpoint to the signature porcelain dishes by the mid-century designer Piero Fornasetti.

Stamped with the face of Lina Cavalieri, a 19th-century Italian opera star who was well known for her beauty, the black-and-white plates (and ties, wallpaper, furniture, etc.) by Fornasetti have perhaps immortalized that attribute. Though these plates are arguably Fornasetti's most well-known designs, he also went on to make ties, wallpaper, furniture, and more featuring Cavalieri's face.

Hundreds of variations on Cavalieri’s face have been produced–her with a moustache, another with a masquerade mask–and it’s fascinating to think that Cavalieri is possibly even more of a visual object now than she may have been during her lifetime. It's said that he once stumbled upon an image of her while flipping through a magazine one day, and, just like that, decided to feature her on all of his designs. It’s hard not to question whether or not Fornasetti may have been ironic in his designs. But he certainly had a sense of humor, and he was surely having fun.

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