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The Commonplace Transformed
Throughout the twentieth century, professionally trained artists, designers, and architects found inspiration in the beauty and practicality of common objects and buildings manufactured by non-trained artisans and craftspeople.
In this series, Michelangelo Sabatino draws upon the extensive research for his two recently published books to explore the process of appropriation and its impact on the meaning and materiality of modern and contemporary design. Selecting from a range of chronologically and geographically diverse examples from the Vienna Secession to Italian and American postwar design, Professor Sabatino will illustrate how material culture and high design merged during the twentieth century to create a new synthesis of urban and pre-industrial design.
In the first lecture, Professor Sabatino will focus on the vernacular of 1890s European design through World War II. The appropriation of ordinary objects to extraordinary design in the postwar period of 1945 to the present will be the subject of the second lecture. The final lecture will offer participants a rare opportunity to view objects from the Contemporary Design collection at the Museum of Fine Arts. These examples, experienced in an intimate setting and selected by Cindi Strauss, Curator, will illustrate the phenomenon of adoption and transformation of the commonplace by modern designers.
Michelangelo Sabatino, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, University of Houston. He was trained as an architect and architectural historian in Venice and Toronto. His articles on European and North-American architecture and urbanism have been published in journals such as “Casabella,” “Cite,” “Harvard Design Magazine,” “JAE,” “JOA,” “JSSAC,” “JSAH,” “Places,” and “Rotunda.” He has contributed an essay to Foro Italico (2003) and co- edited Il nuovo e il moderno in architettura (2001). Professor Sabatino co-edited a book with Jean-Françoise Lejeune entitled Modern Architecture and the Mediterranean – Vernacular Dialogues and Contested Identities (Routledge 2009). His first sole-authored book is entitled: Pride in Modesty: Modernist Architecture and the Vernacular Tradition in Italy (University of Toronto Press, 2010).
Cindi Strauss is Curator for Modern and Contemporary Decorative Arts and Design at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. She holds a BA with honors in Art History from Hamilton College and an MA in the History of Decorative Arts from the Cooper-Hewitt/Parsons School of Design. Ms. Strauss is responsible for post-1900 decorative arts, design, and craft at the MFAH. Recent exhibitions include the traveling show Ornament as Art: Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection; The Past Made Present: Contemporary Art and Memory; and Designed by Architects: Metalwork from the Margo Grant Walsh Collection. In addition to the Ornament as Art exhibition catalogue, recent publications include Pioneers of Contemporary Glass: Highlights from the Barbara and Dennis DuBois Collection and articles for Neue Keramik, the Journal of Decorative Arts, and Metalsmith magazine. Cindi is currently working on a major exhibition and catalogue of the Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio Collection of modern and contemporary ceramics, scheduled to open at the MFAH in 2012 and travel thereafter.
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