Glamorous Eighties

text and icons by Cristina Morozzi
Years of dominance of the image, color, surface decorations, fleeting experiences, mutations, excess. Years of artifice, asymmetry, multicolored decoration, Alchimia, Memphis, the Bolidista Movement, the ephemeral, and luxury.
The years of post: postmodern, post-industrial, post-atomic, post-punk, posts that overlap, becoming units of measure of fashions and styles. Surface enhancement: “The world – as Fredric Jameson writes – momentarily loses its depth and threatens to become a glossy skin, a stereoscopic illusion, a rush of filmic images without density” (Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, New Left Review I/146, July–August 1984). These are the years of the neo-Baroque (a label proposed in 1987 by the semiologist Omar Calabrese in L’età neobarocca, published by Laterza), recognized in the pleasures of aesthetics, the taste for the optional and for mutable forms, luxurious and crafted, that symbolize the aesthetic of uniqueness made available to all. The years of the Italian New Wave: fashion shows in Milan, the rise of fashion designers as prophets of trends and manias.

The years of the theater of Magazzini Criminali, the Florentine post-avant-garde theater group; of the computer art of the Florentine Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici. Years of the “movida”: Barcelona kicks it off, in 1985, with the first traveling Biennial of young artists from Europe and the Mediterranean. Years of frontier art: “the present avant-garde art – writes the theorist Francesca Alinovi – is not so much underground as on the frontier, because it places itself inside an intermediate space between culture and nature, mass and elite, white and black (skin colors), aggression and irony, trash and refinement (Flash Art, n. 107, 1982). Years of graffiti: graffiti artists and tag writers, like Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Rammellzee, change the face of the city. Years of trends: sociologists preach trends of behavior and style, to which one would do well to conform. In Italy the fairs Pitti Immagine in Florence, Contemporary and Neomoda in Milan, where one can find anything trend-setting, as their ad campaigns report, start to appear. These are the years of the look, the charm of visual power, as exemplified by the sacred/profane image of Madonna, created in collaboration with Maripol, the art director of Fiorucci.

The total look: a statement of faith in the stylist, in the capacity to design a coordinated head-to-toe image. The years of the career woman (see the film Working Girl by Mike Nichols, 1988), sporting a tailleur, best if pinstriped, the feminine version of the men’s suit, for a managerial air. The time of the androgynous look, asserting the liberation of cultural codes from genetic codes: Grace Jones, together with her art director Jean-Paul Goude, takes over the stereotype of the aggressive man; the English singer Annie Lennox, in the video Love is a Stranger, wears cropped tresses and men’s clothes. The years of musts, to be desired, owned, worn. And of the rise of Made in Italy on international markets, in design and fashion. The years of the designer–artists like Ettore Sottsass, Ron Arad, Danny Lane, Ingo Maurer, Luigi Serafini… Of iconic pieces, above and beyond seasonal trends because they are closer to art, still in the catalogue today, like the Spring collection by Ron Arad for Moroso, the Casablanca by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis, the hand-painted Cetonia bedside table by Alessandro Mendini for Zanotta.

The years of figurative pieces like the Rose Chair by Masanori Umeda, for Edra, or the One From The Heart heart-shaped lamp by Ingo Maurer. The years in which a new way of relaxing emerges, introduced by the City divan by Antonio Citterio for B&B Italia, archetype of a new ‘televised’ comfort. The years, as Alessandro Baricco efficiently sums it up in his I barbari–Saggio sulla mutazione, “of surface in place of depth, speed in place of reflection, the sequence as opposed to analysis, surfing in place of in-depth research, communication in place of expression, multitasking in place of specialization, pleasure in place of effort” (Fandango libri, Rome, 2006).