A retrospective dedicated to the artist-designer who loved to play and never ceased to amaze has just opened. A precious and unprecedented exhibition. Co-curator Luca Zaffarano explains why

Bruno Munari on display at Eataly E.ART.H in Verona in a solo show as long as his career as a artist, inventor and designer, poet.

25 years have passed since his passing and this exhibition, entitled The lightness of art, wants to tell the story. Perhaps precisely through the Munarian method: the exhibition itinerary proceeds by theme and in each room one encounters the related ingenious and multifaceted inventions with which Munari experimented with that specific theme.

Thus one takes a journey that is not chronological but philosophical, going from one room to another through associations of ideas. And so we encounter previously unseen works and never-before-seen installations. We talked about it with Luca Zaffarano, co-curator of the exhibition together with Alberto Salvadori.

An unprecedented look at Munari. This is what you have developed in this exhibition in Verona. Can you explain it better?

Luca Zaffarano & Alberto Salvadori: «In this exhibition the most relevant themes, at least from our point of view, have been selected from Munari's research and we have built the exhibition on five themes, beyond planning. However, they are also suggestions for delving deeper into Munari's story and his being an experimental artist."

There is also a new element in the exhibition choice and in the way of installing the works on display, perhaps already known to the public but never seen as in Verona. Why?

«I believe the third room is the most interesting from this point of view because it hosts three Useless Machines made in the 1930s, in a space of semi-darkness with the lights directed on the works.

In this way the Useless Machines are not only works of abstract art but also devices with point lights. Therefore, capable of projecting shadows of the most extravagant shapes onto the wall, composing a sort of abstract film without film and determined by a good dose of randomness".

Randomness is an important element in Munari's work and also in this room, which includes another significant object of his production, the Concave Convex, chance is played with.

«The room is 40 meters long and after the Useless Machines you come across the Convex Concave, a metal mesh object with the edges folded backwards interior that recalls natural shapes.

A work from 1946, published in Domus in 1947 and exhibited to the public the following year, which involves installation in a space in which it can create plays of shadows on the walls. In this exhibition it is displayed suspended and illuminated in order to create an immersive environment, fascinating for the public thanks to the surprise effect. Like what happens in the last room."

That is?

«The last one is the room that houses the direct projection slides from the 1950s. They are works created with semi-transparent, opaque and natural materials (like the skin of an onion) inserted into the frame of a slide and projected on the wall in large format.

Munari had exhibited them at Studio B24 in 1956 and then in Gio Ponti's studio. He then elaborates the concept further and creates continuous focus projections where the works come out of the frame and by moving the projection glass another image is obtained. That is, the focus moves onto something else, so by moving the glass you obtain a sort of mini-film."

A study in light and wonderful color. Are there also interactive works?

«A Polariscop is on display, works that Munari created with Polaroid polarized filters and here the filter can be operated by the public who in this way witnesses the decomposition of light and the subsequent creation of colors. Here, returning to the first question, the works that I have described so far have never been exhibited in this way and we believe that it is a way very close to Munari's poetics."

Among the unpublished works offered by this exhibition there are also works that have never been exhibited before. What are they?

«Definitely the collages of graphics for book covers. There are a couple of them in the original version, before the work was photographed to then obtain the image of the book cover. Usually those collages ended up in the bin, but one day an employee of the Club degli Editori publishing house (later merged with Mondadori) saved a couple of them! Then there are planning sheets for some of Munari's books (including Roses in Salad)».

Let's talk about the section dedicated to the project.

«Here you can find many things from his work as a graphic designer, from the Abitacolo (now at the Pompidou in Paris) and the great classics such as the Falkland lamp for Danese (now produced by Artemide), the Chair for very short visits, a wonderful expression of his idea of play with the seat at 45 degrees to slip away quickly, his zizi monkey and the Meo Romeo cat for Pirelli, in addition to the Campari poster, for example."

Colors, shapes and materials are at the center of Munari's investigation. How did he work on the topic of perception?

«An example above all: the Ruota fountain, on display in the Fantasia section. Munari had designed it for Ico Parisi, to be placed in his house on Lake Como. It is a very special fountain, where movement creates colors. And it worked like this: the fall of water from the gutters set colored discs into operation. Sight and hearing were therefore involved in seeing the colors and hearing the sound of the water. But here, as in all of Munari's works, the process is important."

That is, is the process more relevant than the final product?

"Exact. The knowledge process of the materials and their characteristics then allows you to insert and apply creativity and imagination. The working method enters the process and that spirit of childhood, as Munari called it, was the effort not to standardize the method and rather to retain the surprise in the game. Art, for Munari, is play."

Is this Munari's modernity today?

«We are proposing this exhibition 25 years after his death. And I believe that Munari's modernity is precisely that of considering him a great experimenter and a total artist. Art is play means that it offers a point of view open to every form of knowledge and this vision is applicable to every profession today".

Bruno Munari. The lightness of art
Edited by Alberto Salvadori, Luca Zaffarano
Open until 31 March 2024 from Wednesday to Sunday, 12.00 – 20.00 Via Santa Teresa 12, Verona