A historical protagonist of the avant-garde in research on aesthetics, technology and materials, Gufram is back to day with its products and projects - playful, subversive, demystifying, but especially with a pop soul.

A cactus, a mouth, a lawn, iconic objects that are now familiar and part of the collective imagination, were the expression of an immense countercultural movement and a rejuvenated society which, in the 1960s, redesigned everyday life to combat bourgeois respectability, with brightly coloured miniskirts, synthetic materials, new gestures and communal living, clear signs that the fight against the “old” had begun. Founded in 1966 in Turin, Gufram, an innovative company in its aesthetic research, technological experimentation and contamination between art and industry, stood out right from the start with the creation of “domestic sculptures”, unique pieces made of polyurethane foam (which need no internal structure) inspired by American Pop Art and socalled “Poor Art” (Arte Povera), which soon met with great success with the public and the specialist press. The artificialised nature evoked by the artist Piero Gilardi’s I Sassi (1967), by the Pratone sofa (1971) and the Cactus coat stand (1972), together with the vivid colour and the use of off-scale dimensions, all helped to bring the design practice closer to the world of art. Indeed, after the presentation at the Salone del Mobile furniture show in Milan in 1968, the objects were brought together in a single collection, then produced in a limited series, called I Multipli (“The Multiples”), another unequivocal reference to a customary method in vogue in the Sixties and Seventies, the reproduction of a work in multiple copies. The avant-garde Turin design studio signed the eleven pieces in polyurethane foam of the revolutionary I Multipli series, consisting, at different times, of Bocca, Capitello, Pratone, Torneraj, Sassi, Massolo, Attica, Puffi, Cactus, Baby-lonia and Pavé Piuma, which subsequently entered the design collections of the most prestigious international museums. Ironic objects that often played on the surprise effect: for example, I Sassi or Pavé Piuma by Gilardi are soft, despite their granite-like appearance.

Pratone, by the group of architects Ceretti-Derossi-Rosso, a sofa made up of forty-two ‘blades of grass’, lets the user change its shape in the most relaxed way. Again Capitello (1971) opens up to surreal scenarios, as in a theatre design Charley Vezza made of symbols, history, fragments, anticipating the post-modern poetics that followed shortly afterwards, and masterfully interpreting the cultural and lifestyle changes taking place in those years. The meeting between art and design, now such a widespread trend that it has earned itself a name of its own – art design or design art – has been a constant for Gufram which, as a forerunner of this method, maintains the same attitude today in the projects and contemporary directions of its entrepreneurial course, as evidenced by the re-edition of MAgriTTa, the armchair sculpture designed in 1970 by the multifaceted Sebastián Matta. Relaunched in 2012 by entrepreneur Sandra Vezza, Gufram, which celebrated its first fifty years in 2016, is now under the artistic direction of Charley Vezza who, as he tells us, interprets the company’s heritage by reproposing historical icons, made more functional, such as Pratone (now out again in smaller size and with a fabric cover in three different shades of green), and by encouraging special collaborations with other sectors, from fashion to automotive: «For Gufram, a company that is currently experiencing a new course, after the wellknown one of the counterculture years, the heritage passes through the products. For us, interpreting tradition means providing continuity to a way of conceiving projects, imagining new products that have the same capacity to arouse emotions as the famous icons, the Cactus, I Sassi, the Bocca». Gufram is not only targeting an increasingly transversal public, no longer limited to collectors, amateurs and the curious; it is expanding its projects with important artistic collaborations: «Our collaboration with Toiletpaper is first and foremost a friendship – he continues – and it stems from a photo of the Gufram Cactus, part of one of the world’s largest collections of radical design, interpreted by Maurizio and Pierpaolo in a provocative way. Toiletpaper has a radical, pop, but up-to-date approach, and together with them we have gone the other way around: we started from images and went on to create ironic, irreverent objects».

The outcome is a capsule collection signed by the two creatives, artist Maurizio Cattelan and photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari, who create, working together with Gufram, accessories such as The End, a faux-marble stone-sculpture handcut from a block of polyurethane, Soap, a soft coffee table and God, a contemporary reinterpretation of the iconic Cactus. Collaborations include one with Moschino, a brand with a similar unconventionality, part of a wider multidisciplinary dialogue with the fashion world, which also involves the field of communication: «Fashion teaches us how to communicate – Charley continues – fashion is costume, it is the construction of a world, of an imagination. We have a product and, as if it were a character, we build narratives around it». The company’s new direction, studded with spin-offs such as Disco Gufram, a contemporary reinterpretation of the historical theme of disco furniture, in vogue in the Sixties, is an opportunity to meet new professionals such as Atelier Biagetti (Alberto Biagetti and Laura Baldassari), Rotganzen (Robin Stam and Joeri Horstink) and GGSV (Gaëlle Gabillet and Stéphane Villard), all of whom share a contemporary pop attitude. In this journey, which interprets and keeps history alive by renewing it every day, Charley Vezza is the director while the role of designer is played by the company: «I am not a designer – Gufram is. We are often called upon by others to offer our view of things, even beyond furniture, as happened with Lavazza and Samsung», further partnerships that confirm the company’s non-conformist vocation, open to contaminations between languages and aesthetics of the contemporary world.

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