Formal Exercise at Blueproject Foundation is the third exhibition in the 2015 residency programme, this time showing the work of David Mutiloa (Pamplona, 1979). What is interesting is that the work he presents is based on sketches by another artist, the Italian architect and designer, Ettore Sottsass (1917-2007). In fact, David Mutiloa is known for appropriating works by other artists and makers, interpreting, reproducing, and re-purposing them in his own body of work. In this case the basis is a series of designs that Sottsass sketched for a catalogue in 1979.
In this series, Formal Exercise NR2, Mutiloa uses Sottsass’ sketches as a starting point and brings them back to life. The fragments are pieced together and reinterpreted before being transformed into abstract three-dimensional objects of steel, fiberglass, polyester, and polyurethane. In these sketches Sottsass was attempting to revive the contributions of the Italian radical design from previous decades – though it is not clear if they were intended to have a function – and Mutiloa’s resulting objects are strangely appealing. They have the appearance of a secret code or hieroglyphics and the effect is mysterious and gripping.
In the exhibition the viewer is confronted with an array of these small but solid steel sculptures in a variety of cryptic shapes, including a stepped pyramid, a slanted ladder, and some variations on the archway, among the simplest. There are 78 of them to be exact, spread over the floor of the entire Sala Project in such a way that it allows the viewer the freedom to walk around, over, and between the objects, navigating through the maze of strange symbols.
The artist has a background in Industrial Design and Fine Art which might explain how the sculptures somehow manage a poetic and delicate impression alongside their heavy and industrial nature. It is quite bizarre walking amongst these figures, but also curiously irresistible.