Last week the Memphis Garden Club’s GCA Major Flower Show, Memphis/Milano settled in the Dixon Museum and Gardens like a species of exotic birds. Memphis/Milano was an international furniture and decorative arts movement of the 1980s, founded by Ettore Sottass, named while he was listening to “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” by Bob Dylan.
Once the home of a founder of Memphis Garden Club, The Dixon Museum was filled with this colorful collection, brought in especially for this show. Memphis/Milano “was a reaction against modernism”. Last week it inspired one of the most creative shows of floral design seen in the GCA.
Song titles of Memphis music were cleverly used for each floral design class. Each designer interpreted a piece of the collection. This design interpreted the cover piece by Sottass called “Carlton Room Divider”. The designer’s intent read: “The Carlton Bookcase emits playfulness and at the same time a feeling of headiness portrayed in the Strelizia nickolai. The nickolai and the bookcase break all the rules creating a captive image.” That seems to be a lot to ask a design to do, and the judges agreed giving it first in its class.
In the same class (called “Stuck in Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”) in the back of the photo is the inspiration, another Sottass piece called “Casablanca Bookcase”. The mottled paint effect on the bookcase is very cleverly emulated by a open wirework grid or fencing, through which the Helaconia stems emerge from yellow Oasis.
The exhibitor creating this striking design for “Ritz Writing Desk” by Shiro Kuramata deconstructed the desk, using as components the legs, the desk surface as a base, and a vertical rendition of the horizontal ribbing, all in similar vibrant colors, enlivened by Helaconia placed upside down.
Andrea Branzini’s “Gritti Bookcase” is behind the design and at over 7 feet long, very large presence. The designer used a double ladder structure to place the Aspidistra, Gladiolus, Rosa, Zanteschia (mini Calla lilies), and blue and yellow painted mitsumata branches.
“Walking in Memphis”, Class 2, had some of the biggest pieces of furniture. This designer had to contend with “Airport Bookshelf” of wood, metal, plastic and glass by Gerald Taylor. Many of the pieces in the collections featured similar colors of black, white, red, blue, and yellow. This designer met the challenge and won first.
Loyal readers know what a paperholic I am, so you can appreciate how much I loved this “Walking in Memphis” entry. Out of an almost 8 foot square “Malabar Sideboard”, the designer chose the patterns of one cabinet door for her inspiration. Using artist’s papers, she created a textured background for the exquisite Vanda orchids, Roses and Calla lilies that enliven the surface of the panel.
“Super lamp” by Martine Bedin must look really hilarious with the lightbulbs lit. This design won the class called, appropriately enough, “Bright Lights of Memphis” with its clarity, pristine execution and wit. The yellow circle, top left, is a socket, complete with plug!
Another lamp in “Bright Lights …” in an exciting interpretation that garnered the designer the coveted GCA Fenwick Medal. The rather space ship feeling of “Bay Table Lamp” is captured with great insouciance.
Ettore Sottass’ quirky “Tahiti Table Lamp” inspired the most charming of intents – “It’s not all it is quacked up to be”!! The design captured the jaunty attitude of the lamp. These, and more, were in just the first room of the museum!!! As someone said, anywhere else and they would all be blue ribbon winners.