Gaetano Pesce inspires a new generation of artists at the Aspen Art Museum

Stella Bottai: Do you remember how we first met?

Eliza Ryan: Yes, I wrote to you at the beginning of the pandemic; I was in rural Connecticut. When everything stopped, I started taking long walks and collecting flowers and branches and making arrangements. I can focus on it for hours. I asked a friend who owns a bookstore in Chinatown called Aeon if he would send me a specific book: by Bruno Munari Flower with love.

One thing I took from him is that anyone can make arrangements out of any material. I found this incredibly encouraging. I started sending pictures of my arrangements to people and then I thought that at this time when so many people are separated from their loved ones and cannot connect in person, I could send messages from one person to another via email. I started A Flower With Love Virtual Munari and friends were asking me to send a message to another friend.

SB: I remember there is something in the book about how the arrangements you see in it should not be copied.

Well: da Munari ends with: “There are many examples in the book, but not for copying, it is more important to come up with them yourself, since now you know how, bye bye.”

SB: I thought about this idea of ​​avoiding repetition because for Gaetano Pesce the idea of ​​uniqueness and individuality in the forms that are repeated is important. We decided to present a range of works that would span around 50 years and show different sides of his practice. Gaetano is interested in this idea of ​​design and architecture being portraits of a community.

Well: The interesting thing about the vases is that although many of the shapes are the same, the colors and the actual physicality of the resin make each one a unique object. Similar to the way I think about arrangements. There are some recurring shapes or styles that work well together, but it’s also a response to the vessel or object.

SB: Flowers are interesting in relation to Gaetano’s work because they suggest a sense of impermanence. For this exhibition, we had to create flower sculptures in response to the vases, which will run throughout the exhibition – from May to October – which led us to think first about dried flowers and then about fake flowers. Interestingly, they don’t look fake and allow for possibilities that natural flowers might not.

Installation view of Gaetano Pesce’s My Dear Mountains at the Aspen Art Museum.

Well: Definitely. It was my first time working with fake silk and plastic flowers and it was really fun to go to New York’s flower district.

SB: Gaetano is interested in natural forms, not as a celebration of nature as such, but rather in the possibilities of unique forms arising even within patterns of repetition. For example, his organic building in Osaka, Japan was one of the earliest to incorporate living plants into it. The conversation between his work and living flowers, plants and forms began quite a long time ago. In our show, you answered the vases more with a universal shape.

Well: yes For me the process starts with choosing stems and flowers/buds or leaf shapes – color is very important, both bright and bold/dark tones. I look for the shape of the branch and how the buds, flowers and leaves are arranged. I don’t necessarily think about how they will go together, that happens later with each specific ship and environment. In Gaetano’s case, the room felt alive with his power, genius, humor, both in his past and in his new work. You (Stella) included many archival works, all of which greatly influenced my projects. There was an almost domestic scene created with the chairs and tables as well as the frames and shelves. It was also incredibly inspiring.

SB: Did you find that the vase being a figurative image affected the way you thought about it?

Well: It offered an opportunity to be playful with the design. Some of my vases looked like ocean waves crested with white and blue, side by side. Some resembled a volcano and others imitated mountains. His use of color was incredibly inspiring. Things come together intuitively. You’re not sure which way it’s going, but you know when you hit it.

SB: Well, in a way, it’s almost as if Gaetano was there in person, even if he wasn’t, because his objects and designs have such a strong voice. That’s why I see this as a collaboration, even though it’s done in stages.

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