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"Casablanca" Sideboard
"Casablanca" Sideboard, Designed 1981
Designed by Ettore Sottsass, Italian (born Austria)
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Postmodernism (which roughly encompasses design from the 1980s to the present) has appeared in diverse forms with little apparent stylistic consistency or theoretical basis. As a group, however, these designs reject neutral, objective, and universal characteristics, embracing instead historical and contemporary references with self-consciousness, irony, and playfulness. Alessandro Mendini and Ettore Sottsass, founders of the design collaboratives Alchimia and Memphis respectively, renewed appreciation for decoration, history, and symbol. Mendini's "Proust" armchair reproduced a Rococo-style armchair ornamented with Pointillist brushstrokes. Sottsass used new patterned materials and eccentric shapes, notably in his "Casablanca" sideboard (seen left). With a wealth of new materials available and technology increasingly integrated into design, contemporary designers have worked to make their products more consumer-friendly. Junichi Arai engineers and heat-finishes high-tech layered fabrics that leave wrinkled, buckled surfaces with the appearance and texture of handcraft. Similarly, objects such as the stackable table from Gaetano Pesce's "Nobody's Perfect" series rely on chance and the choices of the artisan molding the furniture to determine the color, size, and thickness of each piece. Apple exploits a new "double-shot" manufacturing technique to color their "iMac" computers and "iPod" music players with layers of different materials, allowing consumers to personalize their electronic environments. As mass-produced postmodern objects engage traditional craft values of individuality and personal expression, the distinctions between methods, materials, and even fields begin to blur.