29 September 2016
Locus Solus is the title of one of the most famous books of the eccentric French novelist and playwright Raymond Roussel (1877-1933), an acrobat of language much loved by the Surrealists and then rediscovered in the second half of the 20th century when his work found an echo in the literary and linguistic experimentation of the fifties and sixties. Michel Foucault devoted a significant monograph to him, published in 1963 and left somewhat on the sidelines: “No one has paid much attention to this book, and I’m glad; it’s my secret affair. You know, he was my love for several summers…” The following year, as chance would have it, Gae Aulenti designed a series of pieces of garden furniture for Poltronova that were called Locus Solus. They were made of enameled tubular steel in anything but sober colors: orange and lemon yellow, and later pistachio green and eggplant. The cushions were padded with polyvinyl and covered with a cotton-jute mix printed with a pattern—designed in collaboration with students at the Art School in Pistoia—of concentric circles in gaudy colors on a white ground. And so, after reinterpreting the tradition of bentwood furniture with the Sgarsul rocking chair (1962), an emblem of the “Neoliberty” style of those years, Aulenti came up with a parody of the tubular metal furniture typical of Rationalism, treating it in Pop fashion. The lines are extremely refined: the tubes flow smoothly, citing Breuer and Mies, and come together, barely touching one another, to form the structure of a table, a bench, a couch and a chair. The chaise longue, composed of a single winding piece of tubing, is the most virtuoso piece; the most amusing one is the slender floor lamp, which rises in a sinuous manner as if it were an earthworm with a great luminous head of opaline polycarbonate. If Roussel became the focus of Foucault’s summer love affair, a few years later Gae Aulenti’s furniture provided the backdrop to the sentimental and psychological tangles of Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Jane Birkin and Maurice Ronet under the sun of the Côte d’Azur. In Jacques Deray’s film La Piscine (The Swimming Pool, 1969), in fact, the Locus Solus series is a fundamental part of the set, its yellow color as striking as the intrigues in which the protagonists are embroiled. A new edition of the collection has recently been brought out by the Exteta brand.