Art, industrial design, science and popular culture : modernism and cross-disciplinarity in Italy and Great Britain, 1948-1963

Marfella, Claudia (2015) Art, industrial design, science and popular culture : modernism and cross-disciplinarity in Italy and Great Britain, 1948-1963. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


Conceived inside a chronological frame, which starts in 1948, the year the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London founded, and ends in 1963, when Gillo Dorfles wrote a crucial essay on industrial design, concluding more than a decade of discussions, the thesis aims to examine some artistic and cultural phenomena identified in Italy and Great Britain, and seen as the acknowledgement or as the reaction to modernity. Topics and fields taken in consideration within the thesis are technology, science (fact and fiction), vision of the future, the relationship between arts and the awareness of industrial design as a new discipline. All these aspects, that might seems unusual in relationship with visual arts, are perceived as the expression of a second phase of Modernism. The British personalities included in the thesis are Reyner Banham, Richard Hamilton, Nigel Henderson, John McHale, Eduardo Paolozzi, Alison and Peter Smithson, all members of the Independent Group. With the presence of architects, visual artists, photographers, critics and, in a broader sense, designers, the group encompassed a variety of popular interests, with the inclusion of mass‐produced goods. The Italian figures presented in the thesis – Gillo Dorfles, Bruno Munari, Ettore Sottsass and Giuseppe Pinot‐Gallizio – focused on industrial design objects, viewed as a new artistic branch, to promote, to plan or to question. Other recurring figures analysed in the thesis are Max Bill, Asger Jorn and Tomás Maldonado, who give international connections to the themes and British and Italian personalities examined. In order to provide a wider understanding of the 1950s and their crucial function in the story of post‐war Europe, the thesis aims to emphasise the role played at different level by British and Italian visual artists, designers and critics, and explain the reasons that, in the following decade, would push Italy in its industrial miracle and Great Britain at the peak for its popular culture, pop music and fashion creativity.

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