Post Modern Italian Furniture Styles in the 80s

Written by shaun humphreys
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Post Modern Italian Furniture Styles in the 80s
1980s Memphis Milan looks back to the colourful, anarchic debut of 60s postmodern. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

A post modern flamboyant "Memphis movement" from Milan and a neo punk brand of industrial "do it yourself" design from London characterised 80s furniture design.

In the 80s, the rule book was thrown out the window; virtually no material was frowned upon, from polypropylene to wicker. Its aim was to shock and radicalise the design world, breaking apart avant-garde versus low class. Some designs went into mass production. Memphis and London design borrowed from the next-door decades of the 60s and 70s.

Memphis -Milano

Shockingly bright and highly fashionable, clear cut and angular, kitsch pop art motifs from 50s cafes and Bob Dylan references, comic books blazoned onto plastics, neon tubes jazzed up--you have stumbled upon the Memphis style from Milan known as 80s romanticism. It's fondly described as the "who cares if it's uncomfortable, look at all the great photographs" school of furniture design. Memphis follows in the postmodern footsteps of 60s pop art and 70s punk by continuing to upheave the "smart but soulless" modernist rulebook and post-World War II "international style" with its absence of pop reference.

Post Modernism and Pop Art

You can't talk about postmodern without talking about pop art. In 1962, Sidney Janis Gallery New York, a massive pop art exhibit, influenced critics to officially open curtains to the "postmodern" era. It would become a morally ambiguous reaction to modernism's formal rulebook and seriousness, and would reflect the post-World War II multicultural living space. The 1960s was a radical pool of deconstruction-- colonial backlash and student riots, hippie culture and The Beatles, extreme leftwing and neo-Marxist ideals. Pop art is anarchical and deconstructive, mocking the established high art circle by declaring debase popular icons like Coke bottles and soup cans as art. Its influence on the Memphis group is in the breaking down of high and low culture by using kitsch and continued breaking away from the "international style" and the "smart but soulless" modernist.

Memphis Group Famous Pieces

Famous creations include the striking "Red Valentine" typewriter, the "Carlton Cabinet" made of wood and plastic and painted in primary colours, and the blood orange "Dublin sofa." Ettore Sottsass and Marco Zanini are the key figures to take away with you. Philippe Starck, a French offshoot, flavoured Memphis pop art influence with French visual gags and cartoons. The 80s Memphis Milano continues the tradition of being comfortable with new materials after a post war decade that cleaved earthy, friendly colours and woody materials.

London Industrial Post-Punk

Memphis-Milano shared the stage with the dark side of 80s postmodern design in London, which drew on a spirit of urban blight and 70s punk nihilism. Images of razor blades, graffiti and industry from punk-inspired pieces like the "Rover Chair," converted from a car seat.

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