The Italian radicals who imagined utopia

Feb 17, 2020 160

BY: Diana Budds

The phrase “Made in Italy” conjures up images of sexy cars and impossibly sleek chairs and lamps—a sophisticated industrial aesthetic that began to be forged in the 1950s. But in the late 1960s and 1970s things got weird: A sofa that looks like oversized fake grass, a chair that looks like a cartoonish toppled column, a lamp with an umbrella for a shade, a chaise in the shape of an enormous foot. These kitschy, strange, and irreverent designs are actually all little slices of utopia imagined by the radical Italian designers who created them.

“They had the audacity to believe that through architecture and design, they could change the world,” collector Dennis Freedman says in a Q&A in the catalog for Radical Italian Design: 1965–1985, The Dennis Freedman Collection, a new exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), opening February 14 and running until April 26.

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