9 November 2015
After publishing Gabriele Basilico’s reportage in Iran, Humboldt Books is bringing out Mario Bellini’s in the USA. To put together USA 1972, Bellini has drawn on the precious haul of images and notes, hitherto unutilized, of a coast-to-coast journey made in that year of 1972. To those in the know the date speaks for itself: it was the year that the exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape, curated by Emilio Ambasz, opened at the MoMA. It marked the international consecration of Italian design, in part because it was the first show that the prestigious New York museum had dedicated to a single country. This was a period in which the Italians had an “obsession with interior design,” years in which, Bellini recounts, “we began to reflect on the meaning of the things that occupy, along with us, the space of our homes.” And Bellini, one of the designers invited to present his vision, gave substance to that obsession with the Kar-a-sutra, the revolutionary prototype of a mobile home that he had developed with the Cassina Research Center, and with his journey in discovery of the American way of life, made with Francesco Binfaré and the artist Davide Mosconi, which was to serve as an audiovisual appendix to that exhibition. Armed with a Hasselblad 6×6, Bellini captured the stages in an exploration that took him from Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti to the Mormon communities of Salt Lake City, from mobile homes on their way to San Francisco to the buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago, from Andy Warhol’s luxurious New York studio to the villa of Hugh Hefner, creator of Playboy. But there was space too for ordinary folk, photographed on the streets and in the parks, or inside the detached houses of the middle class with their “domestic altars” crammed with photos, large kitchens and barbecues in the backyard. Bellini’s team were able to make their way into the more private of these locations thanks to an engagement letter from the MoMA, which allowed the group to carry out their research with total freedom of movement. USA 1972 proposes a nostalgic and entertaining plunge into a dimension at once close to and remote from that of America today, as seen through the eyes of a hunter of settings and dressed in the unique colors of the photographic film of the seventies.