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Carlo Mollino: Un Messaggio dalla Camera Oscura

A private collection of erotic photographs from the famed designer and architect

by James Thorne in Design on 12 January 2012

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Everything we know of Carlo Mollino hints to a man of insatiable tastes. The Italian architect and designer indulged in a life of downhill skiing, stunt flying and race-car driving, augmenting his artistic pursuits with fiction and photography. The extent of his most personal obsession was discovered after his death in the form of some 1,300 Polaroid exposures of girlfriends, prostitutes and other women seduced on the grounds of his Turin residence. Carlo Mollino: Un Messaggio dalla Camera Oscura reveals the figure through images of his erotic portraiture.

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The hugely talented son of a wealthy engineer, Mollino led a prodigious career before taking a seat as professor of architecture at the University of Turin. Throughout his life, he became known for his elegantly styled furniture as well as a number of large-scale architectural endeavors. He published a book on alpine ski technique as well as a novel called "Vita di Oberon," which revealed his preoccupation with myth, allegory and classical influences. His endeavors were universal, an array of preoccupations that collide in his secret photographs.

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Staging his women in fake hair and erotic costumes, Mollino's reveals an aesthetic of contrast. Raging against an atmosphere of gilded interiors and lush fabrics is a primitive sexuality that approaches the statuesque. The faces are often expressionless, bodies lightly decorated in lace, gold chains and other opulent materials. Best known for the modernist-styled Teatro Regio of Turin, Mollino's work is best classified as "streamlined surrealism," blending embellishments with stark abstraction.

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The book features a series of essays on Mollino's life and work in addition to pictures of the man, his buildings and interiors. As an architect, he often looked to the female form for inspiration, using it to inform the lines on everything from luxury automobiles to lounge chairs. His work exhibits the strangulation he felt from the rationalist strictures of modernist forms, which fueled his interest in surrealism. "Mollino did not advocate purely functionalist formalism," writes Gerald Matt in the foreword, "but a style that approached the organic and placed the human being at it's center." The erotic models reflect the fantasies and subconscious exploration that informed his designs.

"Carlo Mollino: Un Messaggio dalla Camera Oscura" drops 29 February 2012 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

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