Bruno Munari ( 1907 – 1998, Milan) was an Italian artist, designer, and inventor who contributed fundamentals to many fields of visual arts – painting, sculpture, film, industrial design, graphic design in modernism, futurism, and concrete art, and in non visual arts (literature, poetry) with his research on games, didactic method, movement, tactile learning, kinesthetic learning, and creativity.
Munari was an artist, intellectual, refined designer and teacher, with a love for lightness. He was sharp intelligent, elegant, congenial, irrepressible, creative, driven by experimentation and authentic eclecticism, moved by curiosity about things, for the world, for the people.
He used art as an original form of expression . Even before his graphics, design, pedagogy and publishing, art continuously guided his creative genius.
On the occasion of the Salone 2014, an exhibition dedicated to Bruno Munari, at the Museum of Milan ( Musso del Novecento ), dusted off video materials, and retraced the works and personality of this great character.
The exhibition “Munari Politecnico” is a tale of a multifaceted artist and his role in the Italian and European Union during the 20th Century and the relationships that led him to being a leading protagonist of many eclectic artistic movements.
“The imagination is a faculty of the mind capable of inventing different from the reality of mental images or details in the set: images that can also be practically impossible . Creativity is a capacity where imagination and reason are connected so the result you get is almost always possible.” … Bruno Munari
Bruno Munari was a unique figure in the Italian cultural scene.
He wanted to convey simple ideas with adequate formal expression. His works represent a narrative “shapes” of creative processes. He explored many artistic mediums in this endeavour – painting, sculpture, graphics, design and pedagogy, confident in the imagination of the public.
He demonstrated his intelligence through his art, A near century of movements and fields of knowledge. Ironic words and mild, so far away from the self-congratulatory rhetoric, yet so aware of a sense of meticulous research that accompanied him throughout his life.
Bruno Munari would say “ to complicate is easy, but to simplify is the sign of intelligence.”
This exhibition tried to describe and to pay homage to his many talents , the latter reveals some of his greatest skills : Imagination.
“Mental gymnastics ” he called it , through which replace the mundane with the fantastic , as in the world of children .
This wizard of the lines, winking and chuckling at his own found , tells tales through in stroke of a pen , creates new living spaces made of colored geometries , brings together microchip and trinkets giving life to prehistoric animals. A creative simplicity using disarming tenderness.
Moved by curiosity about things , with wonder , the desire to play, Munari was a unique figure in the Italian : artist, intellectual , teacher and designer.
All Munari’s art seemed to spring from a precise awareness and systematically distorted in the name of continuous intellectual irony .
Munari used painting, sculpture , collage, light installations , works on paper and testing techniques to push their artistic research in border areas. Fields that later would find fulfillment in a design culture.
The art was a bridge to get to other landing places.
Bruno Munari – Portrait Photography
Besides the exhibition, another key display is that of portarits of Munari, created by Ada and Ardessi Act, photgraphers who for 4o years worked closely with Munari , testifying to the main moments of the story and documenting the author’s professional and personal life, for over forty years , during the most important stages of his creative path .
The exhibition titled ” Who have seen we have Seen” : a phrase much loved by Munari to subvert familiar with the relationship between the self-representation, the visual dimension of the portrait and its reflex appearances .
The photographs on display returns the elusive semantic complexity of Munari, showing Munari’s sharp eyes, always directed outwards, in the act of grasping tips and insights .
Ada Ardessi , in fact, choose to immortalize Munari not only as a reflection of art , but as a mirror of its interpretations.
At the end of the gallery is shown for the first time, the last portrait of Bruno Munari taken by Ada and Ardessi Act shortly before Munari’s death .
Curator Marco Sammicheli
The exhibition is curated by Marco Sammicheli who has concentrated on the Art of Munari’s creative genius, where Munari experimented in many mediums, through the course of his long career that began in the 1920’s with the so-called Futurism and the second wave that reaches up to the 1990’s
This exhibition continues a process begun in 1996 which began to analyze the dialectical relationship between Munari , and a younger generation of artists.
The exhibition brings the works of Munari dialogue with those belonging to the Civic Collections of the City of Milan, the Museo del Novecento and the archives of ISISUF – International Institute of Studies on Futurism , which Munari was among the founders together with Carlo Belloli .
Curated by Marco Sammicheli in collaboration with the Fondazione Bruno Danese and Jacqueline Vodoz an important opportunity to present substantial part of the repertoire of works preserved in the foundation of the two collectors.
Danese and Vodoz were Munari’s were amongst Munari’s staunchest supporters and fans, collectors, publishers and business persons , who for decades and supported and encouraged Munari to experiment across multi-discplines, often acting as accomplices to a few meetings and trespassing .
Sammicheli has gathered tempera and pencil on paper, ink, screen printing and many collage animate a path that shows a visual practice refers to the historical avant-garde and radical spirit of research behind countless insights
He has also assembled some of Munari’s “Useless Machines“, reconstructions of imaginary objects, the different illegible books, sculptures by folding or travel.
As well as the series “Fossils of 2000″, Forks ( known for their anthropomorphic contortions ), studies on the perception of the series with Negative-Positive and Munari’s experiments ” Xerografie original” born thanks to the first photocopying machines .
Munari during his youth captured and elaborated the ways and ideas of Futurism, Bauhaus and Neo-Plasticism.
He investigated, in a balanced ratio , the relationship between image and abstraction, between work and architecture , through the Concrete Art in the 20th Century.
Then we find works that see art as an array of new landings and disciplinary works which show a strong relationship with several generations of artists.
The coffee, Brera , ateliers, galleries Milan are places of exchange and growth and bind to Belloli, Munari, Dorfles, Group T, Paolini , in a national and international large-scale , which is the artistic universe Munari .
A continuous process of generation and contamination.
Munari has never joined unreservedly to those currents that always exposed with irony.
Between the 1950’s and the 1970’s, Munari focussed on Good Design, and the use of technology in everyday life.
The planned works interact with the functional forms of technology, include the first electronic brains , but they are “objects” deliberately “Useless”
It was his escape from painting art. It is a way to capture the everyday world of technology : the new forms are those of Sputnik , televisions and cars .
To convey it in art, Munari has not only created multiple works ( Continuous Structures ) for Bruno Danese , but he also imagined an archeology of the future, ironically on the same idea of progress ( Fossils of 2000).
Alongside the works of the Master are authors who exposed and shared with him and research passions : Enzo Mari, Max Bill , Franco Grignani and Max Huber and artists who have attended as Alviani , Arturo Bonfanti , Paul Chip and Marina Apollonio .,
The most striking aspect of Munari , is its ability to capture , as a designer, the essential lines of artistic phenomena.
His first experiences of youth receiving ( Plastic mixed media ), appropriation and reworking of the ways and ideas of the historical avant-gardes ( Futurism, the Bauhaus, Neoplasticism ) , followed by a second moment of disclosure of their research in which they balance abstractions and images.
Since the age of the machines useless , from the period of the Concrete Art Movement of the fifties, with sculptures Munari ( Travel Sculptures ) and canvas abstract – geometric ( Positive – Negative ) , investigated the relationship between work and architectural space.
The passion for the search for a pure visual art has led me to these forms that I have called “negative -positive “.
This is typically of two or more geometric shapes stuck together so as to form a unit such as , for example, the white squares and the squares blacks form the chessboard.
These objects (which do not even seem to define paints abstract pictures ) give the color a new life or a chance to “double focus ”
If we look at a chessboard , we can not tell if it’s a black background covered with white squares or if it is a white square of blacks , this situation creates in white and black that make up the chessboard mobility of advancement or recession in the optical plane between the observer and the object, and over the object.
This effect of color was never considered in painting. Even the abstract paintings of the great masters were a realistic representation of abstract forms resting on a background as a still life by cuttings, or flying in a space that served as the background . It is evident that the color of the background was always destined to remain behind the forms represented , a static color was not used for its dynamic optical – any color can have.
In the negative -positive instead it has a composition of colored shapes that , for the provision on the surface (usually a square ) and for the color intensity , this gives the sensation of movement of color as if approaching or to go away from the observer . The color is then to have a dynamic opportunity that he had never had before.
However, there was unreserved adherence to a constructivist return , which has instead steadily dismantled and exposed in his other works ( books unreadable , Ancestors, Let’s look in the eye due to an irony difficult to harness .
If in the “objects” there is the intervention of the machine ( Zen Fountain Bamboo Xerografie original Forks ) , this is inhibited by the use of organic materials or through a unique gesture of the author.
Or, looking to the side more playful and pragmatic about his work, what he saw in the shoes of brilliant designer , how can we forget the famous Talking Forks ?
Simple stainless steel cutlery , bent and deformed at the expense of function , needed in terms of speech and expression .
A ” mental gymnastics ” he called it , through which replace the mundane with the fantastic , as in the world of children .
“The designer of today re-establishes the long-lost contact between art and the public, between living people and art as a living thing. … There should be no such thing as art divorced from life, with beautiful things to look at and hideous things to use. If what we use every day is made with art, and not thrown together by chance or caprice, then we shall have nothing to hide.” ….. Bruno Munari in the book “Design as a Bridge Between Art and Life”
About Bruno Munari
Bruno Munari was born in Milan, 1907, but spent his childhood and teenage years in Badia Polesine.
In 1925 he returned to Milan where he started to work with his uncle who was an engineer.
In 1927, he started to follow Marinetti and the Futurist movement, displaying his work in many exhibitions.
In 1930, he associated with Riccardo Castagnedi (Ricas), with whom he worked as a graphic designer until 1938.
During a trip to Paris, in 1933, he met Louis Aragon and André Breton.
From 1939 to 1945 he worked as a press graphic designer for the Mondadori editor, and as art director of Tempo Magazine.
At the same time he began designing books for children, originally created for his son Alberto.
Bruno Munari joined the ‘Second’ Italian Futurist movement in Italy led by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in the late 1920s.
Parallel to the work from advertising and graphic, in the thirties he designed the car aerial and useless machines, with which he explored for the first time the idea of mobile sculptures, and continued to experiment with travel sculptures made of cardboard folding.
During this period, Munari contributed collages to Italian magazines, some of them highly propagandist, and created sculptural works which would unfold in the coming decades including his useless machines, and his abstract-geometrical works.
After World War II Munari disassociated himself with Italian Futurism because of its proto-Fascist connotations.
In 1948, together with other painters and architects including, Gillo Dorfles, Gianni Monnet and Atanasio Soldati, founded Movimento Arte Concreta (MAC), the Italian movement for concrete art.
which in contrast to the realism promoted the abstract and non-figurative art.
Perhaps we can say that it serves to make concrete (visible-tangible) with painting or sculpture, an aesthetic that is not a stylization or abstraction of the real, but an aesthetic thought that forms in the artist’s mind and that takes shape, the body is more just for show.
This thought forms the basis of multi-sensory stimulation combined with a specific culture. It can take both body with the means of drawing or painting or by any other means
During the 1940s and 1950s, Munari produced many objects for the Italian design industry, including light fixtures, ash trays, televisions, espresso machines, and toys among other objects.
In the 1950’s Munari pursued experimental research that led him to conceive and carry serial works of various kinds: Negative – Positive , Cars arrhythmic , Polariscope , Talking Forks , Sculptures from Journey, Fossils of 2000.
In 1962 he organized the exhibition Art Scheduled in Olivetti showroom in Milan, thereby initiating the movement of Programmed and Kinetic Art , where he established relationships with the artists of the group T.
In his late life, Munari worried by the incorrect perception of his artistic work, which is still confused with the other genres of his activity (didactics, design, graphics), selected art historian Miroslava Hajek as curator of a selection of his most important works in 1969.
This collection, structured chronologically, shows his continuous creativity, thematical coherence and the evolution of his esthetical philosophy throughout all of his artistic life.
In 1974, presents the number of colors in the work of Peano Curve , inspired by the work of the famous Italian mathematician , at the Gallery of sync Crescia , which starts with a partnership that will last for all of the 1980’s and 1990’s
Munari was also a huge contributor to the field of children’s books and toys in his late life, though he had been producing books for children since the 1930s.
He used textured, tactile surfaces and cut-outs to create books that teach about touch, movement, and color through kinesthetic learning.
In 1963 he published the book Good Design in which he analyzed the natural three objects – the orange, the pink rose and green peas – as if they were objects of design. The book was republished after his death, in 1998.
Among the latest series of works are reminiscent of the aerial stretture called Filipesi and works entitled High Voltage , sculptures related to ” Tensile ” produced in the ’30s.
Bruno Munari died in Milan on 30 September 1998.
until September 7, 2014
Museum of the ‘900